Two bills aimed at providing financial relief for Maine residents and businesses struggling with high energy costs this year have won support in legislative committees and will be taken up by the full Legislature next month.

The Taxation Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to help small businesses hit the hardest by the electric rate increases.

The amended bill, L.D. 2010, would create a tiered credit of up to $3,000 for eligible small businesses that have been affected by sharp increases in standard offer electric rates. The credit would be available to businesses that are considered “medium-general service” under the standard offer and have seen a significant increase in their electric bill.

Earlier this month, the Energy, Utilities and Technology committee voted in favor of a bill from Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, that would help more Mainers afford their energy costs.

As amended, L.D. 1913 would direct the Public Advocate to create an electric ratepayer advisory council. The council would review utility rates and come up with a plan aimed at ensuring that Maine people can afford their energy bills as the state modernizes its electric grid.

The bill directs the council to review relief programs that help seniors and other struggling Mainers pay for their energy bills and improve other strategies to help make electricity more affordable.

The two measures are part of a suite of legislation introduced by Democrats this year to provide direct rate relief, cut bureaucratic red tape for existing energy relief programs and convene a stakeholder group to develop strategies to rein in prices. They build on actions taken earlier by the Maine Office of Public Advocate and Gov. Janet Mills.

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