THE SENATE

S.C.R. NO.

242

THIRTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2022

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE CONCURRENT

RESOLUTION

 

 

requesting the public utilities commission, in collaboration with the department of commerce and consumer affairs' division of consumer advocacy, to convene a working group to create a hawaii low income home energy assistance program to assist low-income households with paying for their home energy.

 

 

 


WHEREAS, the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism states in its July 2021 report, "Electricity Burdens on Hawaii Households", that household electricity burden, the percentage of household income spent on electricity bills, is one of the key elements contributing to a household's energy insecurity, especially for low-income households; and

 

WHEREAS, Hawaii's electricity rates are one of the highest in the nation, at close to three times the national average, and vary based on availability of renewable resources, power plants, fuel costs, and pricing regulations; and

 

WHEREAS, the 2020 report commissioned by the Aloha United Way, "ALICE in Hawaii: A Financial Hardship Study", states that forty-two percent of households in the State live below the ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, employed) threshold, meaning that almost half of all families in Hawaii are struggling to make ends meet, even though they are employed; and

 

WHEREAS, nine percent of these ALICE families are living in poverty, and this trend has progressively worsened in recent years due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic; and

 

WHEREAS, national survey results show that households below the ALICE threshold fared significantly worse than households above the ALICE threshold during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the added protective measures of eviction moratoria and food assistance programs; and

 

WHEREAS, the electric utility companies in the State reported that for the month of December 2021, six thousand two hundred twenty-five customers became eligible for service disconnection due to nonpayment of bills; and

 

WHEREAS, the electric utility companies also reported that they entered into two thousand nine hundred seventy-four payment plan agreements with customers to allow those customers to pay off their unpaid bills over an extended period of time; and

 

WHEREAS, in response to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Rescue Plan of 2021 authorized the United States Department of the Treasury's Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help households that are unable to pay rent or utilities; and

 

WHEREAS, in Hawaii, these federal funds are being distributed by each county through the Rental and Utility Assistance Programs and are scheduled to end by September 30, 2025; and

 

WHEREAS, once the federal funding from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program ends, it is anticipated that low-income households will still require utility payment assistance to prevent service terminations; and

 

WHEREAS, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally-funded, state-administered energy program that has been in existence since 1981; and

 

WHEREAS, the purpose of LIHEAP is to assist low-income households, particularly those with the lowest incomes, that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy; and

 

WHEREAS, LIHEAP prevents low-income families from having to choose between paying for their electric utility bills or purchasing necessary medication and food; and

 

WHEREAS, the federal Administration for Children and Families' Office of Community Services notes that being qualified for LIHEAP does not guarantee that a person in need will receive help because LIHEAP assistance disbursements depend on the amount of LIHEAP funds available for the year; once funds run out for the year, further benefits cannot be distributed until more funds are made available by Congress; and

 

WHEREAS, according to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, fewer than nine thousand Hawaii households, or about two percent, participated in LIHEAP in 2020; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the Thirty-first Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2022, the House of Representatives concurring, that the Public Utilities Commission, in collaboration with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Division of Consumer Advocacy, is requested to convene a working group to create a Hawaii Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to assist low-income households with paying for their home energy; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the working group consist of the following:

 

(1) One representative from the Public Utilities Commission;

 

(2) One representative from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Division of Consumer Advocacy;

 

(3) One representative from the Department of Human Services;

 

(4) One representative from the Hawaii State Energy Office;

 

(5) One representative from each electric utility operating in the State;

 

(6) The Chairperson of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection;

 

(7) The Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, Economic Development, and Tourism; and

 

(8) One representative from Hawaii Energy; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the working group is requested to submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the Legislature and Governor no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the Regular Session of 2023; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Concurrent Resolution be transmitted to the Director of Human Services, Director of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Consumer Advocate, Chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission, Chief Energy Officer of the Hawaii State Energy Office, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hawaiian Electric Company, Chairperson of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative Board of Directors, and Executive Director of Hawaii Energy.

 

 

 

 

OFFERED BY:

_____________________________

 

 

Report Title:

Public Utilities Commission; Working Group; Hawaii Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program