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PRINTER'S NO. 1962
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
SENATE BILL
No.
1310
Session of
2020
INTRODUCED BY SANTARSIERO, HUGHES, FONTANA, FARNESE, MUTH,
TARTAGLIONE, BLAKE, KEARNEY, COSTA AND L. WILLIAMS,
SEPTEMBER 18, 2020
REFERRED TO APPROPRIATIONS, SEPTEMBER 18, 2020
AN ACT
Amending the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.343, No.176), entitled
"An act relating to the finances of the State government;
providing for cancer control, prevention and research, for
ambulatory surgical center data collection, for the Joint
Underwriting Association, for entertainment business
financial management firms, for private dam financial
assurance and for reinstatement of item vetoes; providing for
the settlement, assessment, collection, and lien of taxes,
bonus, and all other accounts due the Commonwealth, the
collection and recovery of fees and other money or property
due or belonging to the Commonwealth, or any agency thereof,
including escheated property and the proceeds of its sale,
the custody and disbursement or other disposition of funds
and securities belonging to or in the possession of the
Commonwealth, and the settlement of claims against the
Commonwealth, the resettlement of accounts and appeals to the
courts, refunds of moneys erroneously paid to the
Commonwealth, auditing the accounts of the Commonwealth and
all agencies thereof, of all public officers collecting
moneys payable to the Commonwealth, or any agency thereof,
and all receipts of appropriations from the Commonwealth,
authorizing the Commonwealth to issue tax anticipation notes
to defray current expenses, implementing the provisions of
section 7(a) of Article VIII of the Constitution of
Pennsylvania authorizing and restricting the incurring of
certain debt and imposing penalties; affecting every
department, board, commission, and officer of the State
government, every political subdivision of the State, and
certain officers of such subdivisions, every person,
association, and corporation required to pay, assess, or
collect taxes, or to make returns or reports under the laws
imposing taxes for State purposes, or to pay license fees or
other moneys to the Commonwealth, or any agency thereof,
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every State depository and every debtor or creditor of the
Commonwealth," in emergency COVID-19 response, providing for
utility assistance.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Article I-C of the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.343,
No.176), known as The Fiscal Code, is amended by adding a
subarticle to read:
SUBARTICLE G.1
UTILITY ASSISTANCE
Section 169.11-C. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this subarticle
shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the
context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Current fiscal year." The fiscal year beginning July 1,
2019, and ending June 30, 2020.
"Department." The Department of Community and Economic
Development of the Commonwealth.
"Program." The COVID-19 Utility Relief Grant Program
established under section 169.15-C.
"Residential utility service." Service delivered to a
residential customer, including a multifamily dwelling unit,
from utility facilities for electric power, natural gas, heating
oil, liquid propane, drinking water and wastewater.
"Utility company." Any of the following that provides
residential utility service:
(1) An electric distribution company.
(2) A natural gas distribution company.
(3) A heating oil company.
(4) A liquid propane company, including a manufactured
home community owner that bills separately for utility
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service .
(5) A water company , including a municipal-owned water
authority and a manufactured home community owner that bills
separately for utility service .
(6) A wastewater company , including a municipal-owned
wastewater authority and a manufactured home community owner
that bills separately for utility service .
(7) A municipal-owned authority.
(8) An electric cooperative.
Section 169.12-C. Construction with General Appropriation Act
of 2019.
The appropriations under this subarticle shall be in addition
to any appropriation under the act of June 28, 2019 (P.L.839 ,
No.1A), known as the General Appropriation Act of 2019, and the
act of May 29, 2020 (P.L. , No.2A), known as the COVID-19
Emergency Supplement to the General Appropriation Act of 2019.
Section 169.13-C. Appropriations from account.
From the Federal amounts appropriated from the account for
the current fiscal year, the following apply:
(1) For COVID Relief - LIHEAP, $50,000,000 is
appropriated to the Department of Human Services for
assistance through the LIHEAP Program.
(2) For COVID Relief - Utility Assistance, $150,000,000
is appropriated to the department for the purpose of
providing utility assistance under section 169.15-C.
Section 169.14-C. Continuing appropriations.
The appropriations under this subarticle shall be continuing
appropriations and shall not automatically lapse at the close of
the current fiscal year.
Section 164.15-C. COVID-19 Utility Relief Grant Program.
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(a) Establishment of program.--The COVID-19 Utility Relief
Grant Program is established within the department.
(b) Use of funds.--Money appropriated to the department for
COVID Relief - Utility Assistance as specified under section
169.13-C shall be used to make grants to utility companies under
this subarticle.
(c) Guidelines.--The department, in cooperation with the
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the Pennsylvania
Infrastructure Investment Authority, shall establish guidelines
for the program that are consistent with the provisions of this
subarticle within 30 days of the effective date of this section.
The guidelines shall be submitted to the Legislative Reference
Bureau for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and posted
on the department's publicly accessible Internet website.
(d) Program requirements.--The following apply:
(1) A utility company shall submit the names and
addresses of residential customers seeking utility assistance
under the program to the department and any additional
information deemed necessary by the department to administer
the program.
(2) Utility assistance under the program may be awarded
to a utility company that provides residential utility
service to residential customers who:
(i) began receiving unemployment compensation on or
after March 1, 2020; or
(ii) on or after March 1, 2020, had their annual
household income reduced by 30% as a result of the COVID-
19 pandemic.
(3) A utility company shall require a residential
customer that meets the one or both of the criteria specified
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under paragraph (2) to provide a certification that the
residential customer meets one or both of the criteria
specified under paragraph (2).
(e) Application.--The following apply:
(1) The department shall develop a standard application
for a utility company to apply for utility assistance under
the program on behalf of the utility company's residential
customers within 30 days of the effective date of this
section.
(2) A utility company must attest to all of the
following in an application for utility assistance under the
program:
(i) The utility company will not terminate service
of a residential customer for failure to make a payment
until 60 days after the last month for which utility
assistance was applied to the residential customer's
account under the program.
(ii) (Reserved) .
(iii) Funding received by a utility company under
the program will not be used for the utility company's
administrative costs.
(iv) Funding received by a utility company under the
program will be applied fully to the accounts of
residential customers who are late on payments or
delinquent as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
(3) The application shall be made available and posted
on the department's publicly accessible Internet website and
be in a form that can be completed and returned by a utility
company electronically or through mail.
(4) The deadline for submitting applications to the
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department for participation in the program shall be October
31, 2020.
(5) A utility company shall, when appropriate, work with
a residential customer to develop a repayment plan for any
outstanding utility debt owed. A residential customer who is
enrolled in a customer assistance program shall be eligible
for a repayment plan under this paragraph. A repayment plan
under this paragraph for a residential customer to resolve an
unpaid balance on an account may not be less than the
following:
(i) Five years for a residential customer with a
gross monthly household income level at or below 150% of
the Federal poverty level.
(ii) Three years for a residential customer with a
gross monthly household income level more than 150% of
the Federal poverty level but not more than 250% of the
Federal poverty level.
(iii) Two years for a residential customer with a
gross monthly household income level more than 250% of
the Federal poverty level but not more than 350% of the
Federal poverty level.
(iv) One year for a residential customer with a
gross monthly household income level more than 350% of
the Federal poverty level.
(6) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the
Public Utility Commission may establish a new payment
arrangement for any payment arrangement entered into by a
utility company and a residential customer under 66 Pa.C.S. §
1405 (relating to payment arrangements). A payment
arrangement entered into under this paragraph shall comply
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with the provisions of 66 Pa.C.S. § 1405(b).
(f) Payments.--The following apply:
(1) The department shall only make payments under the
program directly to utility companies.
(2) A utility company that receives funding under the
program shall comply with any Federal or State audits.
(3) The department shall notify a residential customer
of the amount of payment made to the utility company on
behalf of the residential customer.
(4) The department shall make payments under the program
as follows:
(i) Except as provided under subparagraph (ii), an
amount equal to 100% of the residential customer's
monthly utility bill, but not to exceed $100 per month
per utility, for each month the residential customer
seeks utility assistance under the program for a maximum
of six months. Payments shall be made no later than
November 30, 2020.
(ii) For a utility company that bills quarterly, an
amount equal to 100% of the residential customer's
quarterly bill, but not to exceed $300 per quarter for
each quarter the residential customer seeks utility
assistance under the program, for a maximum of two
quarters.
(iii) Payments under subparagraphs (i) and (ii)
shall be made no later than November 30, 2020.
(5) The department shall only make payments under the
program on behalf of households with an annualized current
income of no more than the upper limit of "median income" as
defined in the guidelines published annually by the United
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States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
(6) For a residential customer who is a tenant and who
has a lease agreement that includes payments to a utility
company by a landlord, the department shall work with the
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to ensure that no payment
made from the program is provided to a landlord who
previously received funding to cover the costs of utility
payments as part of a payment from the Mortgage and Rental
Assistance Program established under section 191-C.
(g) Report.--By December 31, 2020, the department shall
issue a report to the chair and minority chair of the
Appropriations Committee of the Senate and the chair and
minority chair of the Appropriations Committee of the House of
Representatives and post the report on the department's publicly
accessible Internet website. The report shall include the
following information:
(1) The total number of utility companies who applied
for utility assistance under the program.
(2) The total amount of utility assistance that was
applied for under the program.
(3) The average amount of utility assistance that was
applied for under the program.
(4) The average amount of utility assistance that was
provided under the program.
(5) The total number of residential utility companies,
designated by county, who received utility assistance under
the program.
(6) The total allocation of utility assistance under the
program, designated by county.
Section 2. This act shall take effect immediately.
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