In February, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law, signed by Governor Larry Hogan, called the RELIEF Act (Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs, and Families Act). Part of this law provided $83 million to reduce or pay off the past due charges or arrearages of some utility customers statewide.
Some BGE customers will receive, or have received, one or more unexpected bill payment grants from the state.
Customers who are eligible for these grants do not need to take any action to receive them. More information is available in our latest press release.
Why did I receive a grant if I didn't apply for one?
The RELIEF Act provides $83 million to reduce or pay off the past due charges, or arrearages, of some utility customers statewide. The Act defined the types of customers eligible for these grants, and funds were allocated in accordance with the Act and the method approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC). Customers who are eligible for these grants do not need to take any action to receive them.
Other than having a past-due amount, why did I qualify?
The first, and largest, group of customers to receive this help are customers with arrearages who received utility bill assistance from the Maryland Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) anytime since February 2017. The second category is customers who have notified their utility either that their household has someone with a serious medical illness or lifesaving equipment or someone aged 65 or older. Finally, the law states that if any funds are remaining after those two groups, they should be used to retire remaining customers' oldest arrearages.
Why didn’t I receive
In order to receive a grant, you had to be an active customer with an arrearage balance as of June 30, 2021. According to the RELIEF Act, the first two groups of active customers who received a grant were 1) Customers who received utility bill assistance from the Maryland Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) anytime since February 2017; and 2) Customers who had notified BGE either that their household had someone with a serious medical illness, lifesaving equipment, or someone aged 65 or older. Remaining grant funds were then provided to active customers who had arrearages greater than a certain period of time or who had an active payment arrangement.
Does my bill provide information about this grant?
Yes. If you receive a RELIEF Act grant it will be reflected on page one of your bill in the Payments Received line, along with any other payments you have made. It will also appear as a message in the Important Information About Your Bill section on page two.
Why is my grant amount different than my neighbor's/relative's?
The grant amounts were based on each customer's outstanding balance and category of eligibility. Sometimes other grants are provided that are the same for every customer. See the question below about supplemental grants from OHEP.
Will BGE refund me any grant funds that may be greater than what I currently owe on my bill?
No. Any excess grant funds will be held in your account to offset future electric and gas charges.
Do I have to pay back this money?
No. This is not a loan and you do not have to pay it back. BGE has (or will) apply it to your account. You do not need to take any action.
Will I receive this grant next year, too?
No. This was a one-time only grant that resulted from the legislation noted above. Please see the question below about supplemental grants from OHEP.
Are there other grants that
some customers are receiving?
Yes. OHEP also is planning – or may have already paid – what's known as "supplemental grants" to customers who already applied for and received assistance from OHEP in their current program year, which ran from July 1, 2020, through June 3, 2021.
One of these grants is intended to reduce or eliminate these customers' arrearages, to the extent possible. Another grant is expected in June, and it will provide the same amount – in the range of $100 – to all OHEP recipients from this program year. Again, if you received help from OHEP this program year, you do not need to apply for these supplemental grants.
Why are all these unusual
grants being made?
As the name of the RELIEF Act suggests, these are extraordinary efforts the state and federal governments are making to help families recover from the economic downturn during the COVID pandemic. For that reason there is no guarantee that these types of grants will happen again.
Do I need to pay my current or next bill?
Yes. As noted, most of these grants are intended to address past-due charges. But with rare exceptions, they are not likely to reduce or eliminate any current or future billed amounts from BGE and you are obligated to pay those. BGE offers customers a number of options to pay their bills, including ways to get help from resources like OHEP and the Fuel Fund of Maryland. Visit BGE.com/assistance for more information, including about Payment Arrangements that allow you to pay your balance off over time in installments.
The grant will first be applied to any outstanding current charges you owe. Next, it will apply to any remaining balance you have in an existing payment arrangement. If the grant is not enough to fully pay off your payment arrangement, the remainder will continue to be billed in the same installment amounts on your bill each month until it is paid off. Thus, you will pay it off sooner than you otherwise would have.
Who can I contact for more information on my RELIEF Grant?
This latest assistance builds upon the extended payment arrangements and other assistance programs BGE offers customers who may be behind on their energy bill. BGE works closely with its community partners to connect customers with grants and assistance programs like LIHEAP, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP provides grants in varying amounts based on a household's income size, type of fuel, and type of dwelling, with no pay back required. Customers who may have never qualified for energy assistance may now qualify based on their current financial situation. BGE customers could qualify for more than $1,000 in assistance through LIHEAP alone. BGE customers may apply for LIHEAP energy assistance through the Department of Human Services website, or by calling the Maryland Department of Human Services Office of Home Energy Programs at 1-800-332-6347.
In addition to helping customers secure energy assistance, BGE offers expanded billing and payment options that include eliminating down payment/security deposit requirements, extending payment periods for balances and connecting more customers with energy assistance funds. BGE continues to reach out and connect with customers who have fallen behind on their payments, as well as customers who may be eligible for energy assistance, through phone calls, letters, emails, social media, targeted advertising, and more. The most important step customers who are past due on their BGE bill can take is to contact the company at 800-685-0123 or bge.com/assistance as soon as possible. Customers should never wait until they are in crisis to contact the company.