PG&E funds Consumer Action to address energy poverty

Consumer Action was among a dozen or so nonprofits selected to receive a grant from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).
Published: Sunday, June 05, 2022

By Audrey Perrott

Consumer Action was among a dozen or so nonprofits selected to receive a grant from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), California’s largest gas and electricity provider, to support an education and outreach project with the goal of increasing enrollment in a variety of PG&E programs that make it easier for low-income households to maintain utility service.

Energy poverty—the inability to pay household energy bills—can be the result of high energy costs, low income and poor energy efficiency. Millions of American households regularly struggle to pay their energy bill in full. And now, with the utility shutoff moratoriums that were put in place during the pandemic having ended, consumers also are struggling with overdue charges that accrued during the crisis. With this PG&E grant, Consumer Action aims to serve disadvantaged communities, seniors, minority, immigrant and migrant consumers by building awareness of, and enrollment in, relief programs.

Many eligible consumers never apply for assistance programs because they are unaware of them or (often mistakenly) think they do not qualify, yet the benefits can be significant and are worth pursuing. For example, the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program provides a discount of at least 20% on gas and electricity, and the Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) program provides a discount of 18% on electricity only. (To see if you qualify for CARE or FERA in PG&E’s service area, visit this webpage. At the bottom of the application, it will ask if a community contractor is assisting with the application. Select “Yes” and enter Consumer Action’s COC code 2643. If you live outside of PG&E’s service area, contact your local utility provider about the utility assistance programs it offers.)

With the Arrearage Management Program (AMP), PG&E customers are able to get up to $8,000 of a past due balance forgiven if they are enrolled in CARE or FERA, owe at least $500 in gas and electricity or $250 in gas only, and their bills are at least 90 days delinquent. (Call 800-743-5000 to apply.)

The Medical Baseline Program provides an ongoing energy bill discount to customers with qualifying medical conditions or devices (e.g., asthma, sleep apnea, a motorized wheelchair/scooter). Participating customers also receive enhanced notification of a planned Public Safety Power Shutoff. (PG&E customers can apply online.)

These and other programs can help reduce energy bills, improve energy efficiency and keep families safe.

Throughout the project, Consumer Action will collaborate with community-based organizations (CBOs) to offer enrollment events, provide trainings, publish feature articles and conduct media interviews. The project and PG&E’s assistance programs will be promoted in English, Spanish and Chinese.

Consumer Action works to combat income vulnerability in the lives of low- and moderate-income (LMI), limited-English-speaking and other underrepresented consumers. We accomplish our mission through education, outreach and advocacy. If you or someone you know are living in PG&E’s service area and are unable to pay, or need assistance in reducing, your energy bill, visit’s PG&E’s website.

 

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