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Biden calls for power bill help, clean energy loans in pandemic relief plan

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package includes assistance for low-income households to pay their utility bills and would leverage government funds for business loans that could apply to the energy sector.

The proposal, which Biden released late Jan. 14, could guide lawmakers on future pandemic relief legislation in the new Congress.

Biden's plan would provide $30 billion in rental and critical energy and water assistance. Of that money, $5 billion would go toward energy and water costs and arrears through programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. That funding level exceeds prior requests from the power industry as well as proposed support for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that the Democrat-controlled U.S House of Representatives included in a pandemic relief package in September 2020.

Along with utility bill assistance, that section of Biden's plan would provide a "competitive set-aside of funding for states to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency projects that reduce electricity bills for families in disadvantaged communities."

The president-elect's proposal also called on Congress to provide relief to small businesses that could include energy project developers. The plan would leverage $35 billion in government funds to generate $175 billion in additional small business lending and investment. That money could provide low-interest loans and venture capital for state, local, tribal and nonprofit small business financing programs that could serve "those in the clean energy sector," the proposal said.

Biden, whose inauguration is Jan. 20, is expected to unveil another large spending plan next month that could focus on longer-term goals, including infrastructure development. Those efforts will come on the heels of President Donald Trump signing a massive combined stimulus measure and government spending package in late December 2020 that included $35 billion for federal clean energy research support and tax credit extensions for certain renewable resources and carbon capture and sequestration.