The state of Maryland funds its Universal Service Program through charges on electric bills. Below are some frequently asked questions on the issue.
What is the Universal Service Program?
The Universal Service Program is a result of legislation bringing customer choice to Maryland’s electric utility industry. This program was created by the Maryland General Assembly, and signed into law by Gov. Parris Glendening, to help low-income electric customers. The state Department of Human Resources administers the Universal Service Program.
Who is the Universal Service Program designed for?
The Universal Service Program is available to customers whose incomes are at or below 150 percent of the poverty level. The program provides bill assistance, arrearage retirement, and help with home weatherization.
How is the program funded?
Customers of Maryland utilities fund the program through the Electric Universal Service Charge on their monthly electric bills.
How much is the Universal Service charge?
Maryland’s residential electric customers pay a flat fee of 36 cents per month on their electric bills. The Universal Service charge for commercial and industrial customers is set each year based on the amount that the customer paid for distribution service in the previous year. Electric utilities will collect the money and forward it directly to the state comptroller’s office to support the Universal Service Program.
How do I find out more?
The state Office of Home Energy Programs, a part of the Department of Human Resources, coordinates the Universal Service Program. The office can be reached at 1-800-352-1446. (For the hearing impaired, 1-800-925-4434.)
Below is information on the agencies assisting eligible Universal Service Program participants in SMECO’s service area.
Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Committee, Inc.
Prince George’s County Department of Social Services
805 Brightseat Road, Landover