SANTA FE – The State Home handed a invoice on Tuesday meant to maintain the lights on for utility prospects unable to pay as a consequence of financial hardship inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The invoice, Home Invoice 206, would require utilities to supply residential prospects who’re behind on their funds the chance to take part in an installment program to pay what they owe, with out late charges. .
Utilities would additionally face new restrictions on once they can disconnect a buyer’s service.
The invoice would additionally create a broader aid program for low-income households. In some circumstances, a buyer might have half of their debt incurred throughout the pandemic wiped off the books.
“This invoice helps individuals who have skilled nice financial difficulties and who’re in debt due to COVID-19,” mentioned Democratic Consultant Kristina Ortez of Taos, “and it helps us ensure that doesn’t occur. reproduce extra. That is unprecedented, what we’re experiencing. ”
Opponents attacked the invoice as extreme and mentioned it will intervene with emergency measures already taken by the state’s Public Regulatory Fee.
Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, mentioned the laws “will socialize the utility business in New Mexico.” Good intentions apart, he mentioned, the invoice will solely shift prices from some purchasers to others.
“I am not a fan of free lunch,” Scott mentioned. “Somebody should take the be aware.”
Underneath the invoice, a utility might get better its prices by way of PRC-approved adjustments to its tariffs, requests for federal funding or different measures.
The invoice would additionally set up a block grant program for vitality effectivity initiatives in low-income communities and permit the PRC to approve diminished tariffs for low-income households.
The invoice acquired 39-31 approval on Tuesday and is now heading to the Senate with simply 17 days left within the 60-day session. He should get Senate approval by March 20 to succeed in the governor’s workplace.
Ortez, a co-sponsor of the invoice, mentioned the measure would supply extra aid than what the PRC is allowed to do by itself, such because the debt forgiveness provision.
“Our low-income households want this assist,” Ortez mentioned. “We have by no means been in a disaster like this earlier than.”
Six Democrats crossed get together strains to vote in opposition to the invoice, becoming a member of an impartial and all Republicans.