Facing financial hardship, senior citizen hopes for relief from higher electric rate

PELION, SC (WIS) - Retired and on a fixed income, struggling to make ends meet, Pelion woman Anne Marie Scupp says her 'high' SCE&G bill doesn't help. Despite being on SCE&G's Budget Billing plan, Scupp is set to pay $198 per month for electricity. That's an increase from what it had been before at $138.

SCE&G says the increase in Scupp's payment plan is not because of any rate increase or nuclear fee.

However, Scupp is one customer hoping politicians will act soon and reduce rates tied to the V.C. Summer failed nuclear reactors, for those trying to make ends meet like herself. It was like sticker shock for Anne Marie Scupp when she first learned of her average monthly electric payment.

"At first you get like a cold shock like somebody throws water on you," Scupp recalled. "Because having been on social security the adjustment from a full pay is astronomical actually."

To keep the lights on, she worries she will have to choose which medication to quit to save money.

"I get depressed," Scupp described the feeling of financial hardship to WIS-TV. "I sort of get angry you know that things are the way they are."

Scupp has been considering finding part-time work.

However, lawmakers are at odds on how much to roll back rates. The House's plan would cut rates 18 percent, which scraps the entire charge for nuclear reactors. For example, that would save Scupp about $35 each month. The Senate plan would cut 13 percent and leave five percent of the nuclear charge. That would save Scupp about $25 each month.

"I'm not an extravagant person," Scupp said. "I just kind of live an average quiet life, and cutting back is harder and harder."

WIS asked House leaders if they will agree with the Senate to lower electric rates less than the House's original plan.

"From the House's perspective, we are solid that we stay at zero percent," SC State House Majority Leader Rep. Gary Simrill said. "This does nothing more when the Senate adds yet another five percent on a project that will never ever take off the ground. It is a slap to every ratepayer that is in that system."

Until a change is made, Scupp will nickel-and-dime things like groceries. She regrets this has impacted her golden years.

"I don't call them the golden years," Scupp said. "I think I slid past them to the lead years."

The rate change is in the Senate's hands now. They are out on break for this week. So, they would have to come back and pass the plan for it to edge closer to law.

When asked what things could cause an SCE&G customer's Budget Billing payment to increase, spokesperson Rhonda O'Banion said this:

"Normally, a customer's payment amount is recalculated every 12 months on the customer's Budget Billing anniversary based on the customer's actual energy charges over the previous 12 months and the projected cost of energy over the next 12 months. Their payments and charges are then reconciled. In other words, if the total of their payments is not enough to cover their actual charges for the previous year, they will have the option to either pay the difference from the previous year in full or pay the new Budget Billing amount, which will include the amount brought forward from the previous year as part of the new monthly payment amount. If their payments are more than their actual charges, we apply the credit balance toward the recalculation of their new Budget Billing amount."

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