7 Major Utility Companies Join No-Shutoff Pledge as Part of U.S.'s New Aid Package

Seven more major utility companies have vowed not to shut off service for customers seeking assistance and to identify and notify any eligible recipients of government aid. The Biden administration announced the new commitments Friday alongside an initiative to distribute another $4.5 billion in funds through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) program to help Americans pay for heating during the second winter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prices for electricity and natural gas are about 11 percent higher compared to a year ago, according to the Labor Department's consumer price index. Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration reported that prices for residential heating oil are 40 percent higher than they were a year ago.

Atlantic City Electric, Baltimore Gas and Electric, ComEd, Delmarva Power, Pacific Gas & Electric, PECO and Pepco are the new seven companies that have joined the no-shutoff pledge, according to the White House announcement. The administration had already received commitments in November from fellow utility companies DTE Energy, Eversource, Green Mountain Power, National Grid, NorthWestern Energy, Portland General Electric and Vermont Gas, as well as the trade association NEFI.

As for the LIHEAP funding, states with colder weather will be given larger shares, according to a breakdown included in the White House announcement.

"These resources are already allowing states across the country to provide more home energy relief to low income Americans than ever before," the White House said.

Biden Announces New No-Shutoff Commitments
Seven more major utility companies have vowed not to shut off service for customers seeking assistance and to identify and notify any eligible recipients of government aid, the Biden administration announced Friday. Above, President Joe Biden gives remarks in Statuary Hall of the U.S Capitol on January 6 in Washington, D.C. Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

The funding boost—part of last year's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan coronavirus relief package—more than doubled the normal funding level of LIHEAP. These funds represent the largest appropriation in a single year since the program was established in 1981.

The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the state allocation breakdown, which shows a clear prioritization of cold-weather states with higher heating costs. For example, Minnesota received nearly $274 million in home energy assistance for needy residents. Meanwhile, Texas, which has a population five times larger, received just $10 million more. New York, with a population of less than 20 million people compared with Texas' 29 million, received just under $876 million.

The aid is meant to help cushion the shock of higher winter energy costs. But Republican lawmakers have said the overall relief package, which was signed into law by the Democratic president in March, has caused higher levels of inflation by pumping too much money into the economy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

U.S. Cold Weather
The Biden administration announced Friday that another $4.5 billion would be distributed through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) program to help Americans pay for heating during the second winter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Above, people walk through the snow during the first snow storm of the season on January 7 in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images