US offers $336m to reduce energy costs for NJ residents

As energy prices rise, New Jersey residents will get $336 million worth of help from the federal government.

The state will receive $153.3 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help pay winter heating bills, and $183.1 million in rebates for homeowners buying energy-efficient appliances making their buildings more energy-efficient, the White House announced.

The funding was to be highlighted by Vice President Kamala Harris on a trip to Boston. It comes right before a midterm election in which inflation is a major issue and highlights programs that most congressional Republicans voted against.

More than half of the funding will come from President Joe Biden’s climate change and health care law and the rest from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

“As cold weather approaches, this funding will help families across New Jersey keep up with their energy bills,” said House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone, D-6th Dist. “This comes as much-needed relief for the millions of families struggling to make ends meet.”

The current application period for LIHEAP began Oct. 1 and is open until June 30, 2023. The program is limited to those who make 60% of the state’s median income.

For a family of four, the limit is $79,944 a year. For an individual, it’s $41,568. Eligible residents must pay their own heating bills, either directly to a utility company or to a landlord as part of the rent. For information on how to apply, go here.

“As we get close to these winter months, millions of hard-working families throughout the country are going to be looking for ways to keep their houses warm” while also putting food on the table, · U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said on a conference call with reporters. “We’re goin to do everything we can to make LIHEAP work for them.”

The rebate program is designed to help make homes and appliances more energy efficient. Individual households could get as much as $2,000 for making improvements to their dwellings that reduce energy use by at least 20% and $4,000 if they save at least 35%. The rebates double for low- and moderate-income homes. Owners of apartment buildings could receive up to $400,000.

Households installing energy-efficient appliances such as heat pumps, stoves and clothes dryers could get up to $14,000 in rebates. They will cover the entire cost for households making no more than 80% of the area median income, and 50% for those earning 80% to 150%.

“It’s going to help low- and moderate-income families gain access to upgrade their homes in ways that will save energy costs,” White House National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi said on a conference call with reporters.

In Trenton, state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, called for a temporary suspension of the sales tax on natural gas and electricity used to heat homes. In September, the state Board of Public Utilities unanimously approved rate hikes of as much as 25% for natural gas.

“People are hurting financially, and with frigid weather right around the corner, families are worried about how they will be able to keep their homes warm,” Pennacchio said. “Inflation remains out of control and shows no signs of slowing down, and higher prices for everything from food to clothing to transportation is eating into household budgets at a record pace.”

New gas rates took effect on October 1, after state regulators “approved double-digit rate increases for four gas providers serving millions of customers in the state.”

The biggest biggest hike, 25 percent, will hit almost 2 million gas customers of PSE&G, the largest utility in New Jersey. Rates will also skyrocket for residents serviced by Elizabethtown Gas, New Jersey Natural Gas, and South Jersey Gas.

“These new rates couldn’t come at a worse time for retirees and families struggling with record cost-of-living increases. The price of everything is going up, and household income cannot keep pace,” said Pennacchio.