HOUSE DEMOCRATS NEWS
Legislation providing financially-struggling New Mexicans with COVID-19 relief on utility bills, including electricity, gas, water, and wastewater service, as well as addressing the long-term affordability of these essential services, passed the House of Representatives today.
House Bill 206: The Utility Affordability and Relief Act is sponsored by Rep. Kristina Ortez (D-Taos), Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces), Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe) and Rep. Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces). This bill establishes two programs: 1) the Utility Bill Relief Program, to create repayment programs and credits for those who fell behind on utility payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2) The Community Energy Efficiency Development Block Grant to address, in the long-term, the financial burden of energy costs suffered by low-income households in New Mexico.
“COVID-19 has had devastating financial consequences for many hard-working New Mexicans,” said Rep. Ortez. “HB 206 provides needed relief to those who fell into arrears on their utility payments due to being economically impacted by the pandemic. It also lays the groundwork for local communities and utility companies to work together to make infrastructure improvements that will lower the cost of utilities in the future.”
“Once disconnection moratoriums put in place for COVID-19 expire, many of our low-income residents face the very real possibility of their electricity or gas being cut off,” said Rep. Ferrary. “The bill ensures that New Mexicans hardest hit by the pandemic have a reasonable path to reconciling their accounts and don’t face further hardship in the months to come.”
“HB 206 provides immediate relief to New Mexicans adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Romero. “But it also addresses our state’s much-larger problem of energy efficiency and utility affordability for our most vulnerable populations.”
“There is a clear and vital need to improve energy efficiency in New Mexico,” said Rep. Rubio. “Low-income families have an energy burden three times higher than other households, with some in our rural communities paying as much as 37% of their income on these utilities. HB 206 addresses both immediate and long-term issues of affordability, so that no New Mexicans are left without these essential services.”
HB 206 passed the House with a 39-31 vote, and will now head to the Senate for consideration.
Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.