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Aug. 10, 2006 – In Wednesday's Committee on Finance meeting, Senator Russell addressed the issue of rising energy and fuel costs in the territory by suggesting that an energy subsidy be implemented toward reducing electrical bills for territorial residents. Amidst discussion among senators and WAPA officials, including Executive Director, Alberto Bruno-Vega, agreement centered on the need to immediately seek a resolution toward soaring costs.
Senator Russell commented, "The idea is to subsidize the neediest residents of our territory through the Department of Human Services, using some of the services that the department currently provides. We want to expand the energy subsidy policy by adding additional funds to the department to pay the WAPA bills for more persons and residents. While we cannot immediately reduce the WAPA bills, we would like to be able to provide an energy subsidy for the neediest persons toward reducing WAPA bills."
Under the leadership of the majority, and as suggested by Senator Russell, the legislature is prepared to help the territory's most under-privileged residents by sponsoring financial relief for those residents who are facing the unfortunate hardship of having to pay unreasonable increases in electrical bills.
Senator Russell noted, "The recent rises in fuel costs for WAPA has translated into higher electric bills for all residents of the territory. To date, and after several meetings and attempts to address the exorbitant costs associated with electrical bills, the legislature, WAPA administration officials, the executive branch, and individuals from the private sector have been unable to collectively find a solution to the rising costs of electric bills. Residents most affected include those on fixed incomes at or below the poverty level, the disabled, senior citizens, single mothers, unemployed parents, and other needy persons who are currently unable to meet the challenges of these rising costs. This subsidy seeks to alleviate that source of stress for those persons currently unable to pay these rising costs. I am confident that this proposal would serve the people of the territory well."
Senator Russell and Senator Hill agree to sponsor the legislation that mirrors the federal energy subsidy statute.