October 21 -- With more people seeking help, the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) increased the budget for its Universal Service Fund (USF), an assistance program that ensures low-income households pay no more than 6 percent of their income on energy bills.
The board increased the budget for the USF program from $195 million to $215 million. At the same time, it adopted a $72.6 million budget for the Lifeline program, which provides senior citizens and the disabled with a $225 energy benefit.
The increases will boost by $1.23 a year (or 3 percent) a surcharge on gas and electric customers’ utility bills. The surcharge, known as the societal benefits charge, amounts to about $44.46 a year to pay for both the USF and Lifeline programs.
For the first time ever, the number of households participating in the USF topped 200,000, according to Kristi Izzo, board secretary. Last year there were 180,000 households enrolled; this year the number was 205,000, Izzo said.
Qualifying households for the USF program are those whose income is 175 percent below the federal threshold for poverty.
Source: NJ Spotlight