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Thousands of small businesses to receive credits on electric bills

In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019 photo, power lines converge on a Central Maine Power substation in Pownal, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019 photo, power lines converge on a Central Maine Power substation in Pownal, Maine.

Nearly 3,000 small businesses in Maine will soon see sizable credits on their electricity bills as part of a one-time relief program approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

During the final days of the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that was intended to soften the blow of rising electricity rates. The bill, L.D. 2010, established a three-tiered system that would offer one-time credits to businesses that are considered medium-sized electricity consumers by Central Maine Power and Versant.

Working with lawmakers, the administration of Gov. Janet Mills then set aside $7 million that was earmarked for small business relief programs using federal funds received during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 2,900 businesses qualified to receive the credits, which will be applied to electricity bills on October 30. Most of the credits will be $2,324 although a small number of businesses with higher electricity consumption rates will receive credits of either $4,647.99 or $6,197.32, according to figures from the Mills administration.

"I think it will be very helpful to Maine businesses,” Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said during a interview. “This is a step to help them continue to be able to move forward. And it's a critical step that will come a really important time for Maine businesses as they prepare for winter and prepare for additional investments they may need to make around weatherization or other options to continue to lower their costs over time."

Earlier this year, the Mills administration and state lawmakers sent $850 checks to most Maine taxpayers to help offset inflation, particularly the rising costs for gas, heating oil, groceries and electricity. That initiative received strong support from Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, as did the electricity credit program created by Jackson’s bill. The timing of the electricity bill credits was also laid out in the legislation, which passed both chambers of the Legislature unanimously without roll call votes.