By Genoa Barrow | California Black Media
Summertime is a great time for outdoor activities but when the temperature begins to hit triple digits, many consumers will try to escape the heat by staying indoors. The additional usage of energy can cause bills to increase significantly. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) does not want their customers to get “beat by the heat” and offers several energy savings tips and programs to help consumers save money and pay their bills.
PG&E offers different programs to those who may need extra assistance in paying their bills every month. “We’re here to support all of our customers,” says Allen Fernandez Smith, PG&E’s Manager of Low-Income Programs and Strategies.
Tandrea and Steve Thysell, a young couple living in Stockton are already utilizing programs provided by PG&E. As a social worker and substitute teacher, the Thysells say they can use all the help they can get in keeping costs down.
“We’ve been using them for about six years. They’ve helped us tremendously, along with the balance pay program, I love that program the most,” Tandrea Thysell shared.
She’s speaking of “Budget Billing,” which means PG&E will average out a customer’s energy cost, using their past history, so that they’ll see more manageable payments and avoid big spikes on their bills.
“CARE has helped lower our monthly bills consistently and made the payment manageable when they might be outrageous,” Mrs. Thysell said.
The couple also participates in PG&E’s Medical Baseline Program that provides extra energy at the lowest price for those with a qualifying medical condition. Both Tandrea and Steve Thysell use breathing apparatuses for severe asthma.
“Medical Baseline has allowed us to keep power when others may not have had it or to be warned by text or email when we were going to be without it due to our devices.” Tandrea Thysell shared.
The CARE program, Budget Billing and Medical Baseline Program are only a few of the programs offered through PG&E. PG&E has a number of assistance programs for low-income customers including the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) Program, which gives income-qualified customers a monthly discount of at least 20 percent on their gas and electric bills.
The Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) Program helps larger families and through the Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) program, income-qualified customers can receive free energy-efficient home improvements. These improvements can help reduce energy bills and improve health, safety and comfort. The ESA program is open to those who rent or own their homes and provides qualified customers with energy-saving improvements at no charge. If you’re on the CARE program, you’re also eligible for the ESA program because the guidelines are the same.
CARE income guidelines are increasing on June 1, 2018 to allow households that earn more money to participate and save. The guidelines are set by the California Public Utilities Commission.
With the 2018 change, the income threshold goes from $40,840 to $41,560 for a family of three; and from $49,200 to $50,200 for a family of four. This means more customers will be qualified to apply and receive a monthly discount.
CARE is one of PG&E’s highest satisfaction programs. An estimated 1.5 million customers are eligible and 90.5 percent of those who are eligible are taking advantage of the program’s discounts. Some 145,000 customers who are eligible have yet to enroll.
“We understand that California is a very diverse state and our customers are also very diverse with many different needs,” says Fernandez Smith, “and we want to make sure we’re meeting their needs by providing safe, reliable, affordable clean energy.”