|OLYMPIA, Wash. – Using emergency authority granted by Gov. Jay Inslee, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) today approved a proposal by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to extend existing bill assistance programs to households that have lost income due to COVID-19.
PSE’s new Crisis Affected Customer Assistance Program (CACAP) will use $11 million of previous years’ unspent funds from PSE’s Home Energy Lifeline Program (HELP) to aid customers in need without affecting current programs or increasing rates. This program allows PSE to provide the funds directly to families who would not ordinarily meet the low-income requirements for HELP without having to go through a third-party administrator.
On March 24, Gov. Inslee issued Proclamation 20-23.1, which allowed the commission to use surplus balances in electric and natural gas low-income accounts to assist utility customers throughout Washington state impacted by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I applaud Puget Sound Energy for developing this program so quickly,” said UTC Chair David Danner. “The pandemic has significantly impacted the livelihood of many families in our communities, and many will have trouble paying their energy bills. This program will get bill assistance to people who need it without delay.”
To qualify, the customer’s monthly income must be at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. After approving an application, PSE will issue a credit to the customer’s account based on the household’s energy bills from March through August 2019, with a maximum benefit of $1,000 per household.
PSE electric and natural gas customers facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can apply through PSE’s online portal at www.pse.com, or contact PSE by phone or mail. Customers must provide proof of income or proof of loss of income to PSE; self-employed customers should provide a self-declaration.
The program will run in parallel to the current HELP program administered by Community Action Partnership (CAP) agencies in partnership with PSE. Customers can continue to seek bill assistance through CAP agencies listed on PSE’s bill and weatherization assistance page.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PSE had already voluntarily suspended disconnections and late fees for non-payment.
Bellevue-based PSE provides electricity service to more than 1.1 million electric customers in eight Washington counties: Island, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Pierce, Skagit, Thurston, and Whatcom.
PSE also provides natural gas service to more than 800,000 customers in six Washington counties: King, Kittitas, Lewis, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston.
The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.
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