Small businesses aren’t reaping the benefits of the more than $1 billion in revenue generated by Maryland through a regional program that caps and reduces fossil fuel energy use in a bid to cut emissions that cause climate change.
The Maryland Department of the Environment reported that the $36.6 million raised in proceeds from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) most recent auction brings the 14-year total to more than $1 billion.
“I think your run-of-the-mill small business owner is not seeing the benefits of this program,” Mike O’Halloran, the Maryland director for the National Federation of Independent Business, told The Center Square.
Most of the funds are going toward energy assistance for low-income households and energy efficiency in low-to-moderate-income homes and communities, the Department of the Environment reported.
Utility bills have risen for small businesses. Coupled with inflationary issues and a labor shortage, he said it is tough for small business owners to balance their books.
“Is there a better way to utilize any sort of financial benefits from the program that go to help small businesses?” O’Halloran asked.
Small businesses run the gamut of industries, he said.
“They can be in the manufacturing sector, which is a pretty intense energy user,” O’Halloran said. “So maybe this program would be better served, focusing on small businesses as well to make sure that they are energy efficient.”
He thinks the program is like many government grant or loan programs. The public doesn’t know about it, so he asked what good it is to keep operating those programs.
If small business programs designed to improve the energy efficiency for small businesses exists, they’d like to take advantage of them, he said.
“But you ask the average small business owner, who has to be their HR, their cashier, their CPA, their financial adviser, ask them if they have the time to look into whether or not they’re government programs that may or may not help them lower their electricity bills,” O’Halloran said. “And you’re going to get a very confused look on their face, probably followed by ‘What, are you kidding me? You think I have time for this?’”
The goals of the RFGI program are laudable, but he’d be hard-pressed to find a small employer that’s a success story or included in this program, O’Halloran said.
“We’ve got to make sure that stakeholders are involved, whether it’s groups like NFIB or local chambers of commerce, so that we can take advantage of any sort of money that’s set aside from programs like these,” O’Halloran said.
“Because look, if at the end of the day, it saves a few bucks for a small business owner on their utility bills, why not? … Absolutely, they’d be among the first to sign up.”