Last week I hosted a COVID -19 Utility Assistance Tele-Town Hall. We had guest speakers who talked about programs and services available to help with utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had representatives from the California Public Utilities Commission, Southeast Community Development Corporation, SoCalGas, Southern California Edison, and Clean Power Alliance. Below is some of the information they shared.
California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)
The CPUC regulates services and utilities, protects consumers, safeguards the environment, and assures Californians' access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services. The essential services regulated include electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies. Below are links to resources they provided:
CPUC’s COVID-19 actions and information
Utility protections for telephone service
California LifeLine Program
(site also available in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog)
Boost Pilot Program for customers on CARE
Call or text the Fresno State Connect Call Center at 1-833-2SAVE15 or email them at FSCallCenter@Mail.FresnoState.Edu
iFoster Pilot Program
Support@iFoster.org or 1-855-936-7837 (1-855-9FOSTER)
Non-profit call centers that Help with affordable plan evaluation and signups https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/uploadedFiles/CPUCWebsite/Content/News_Room/NewsUpdates/2020/call%20center%20contacts%204.6.2020.pdf
Southeast Community Development Corporation (which operations the Bell Tech Center) is an area grantee that helps people evaluate and signup for affordable internet offers: 323-585-4579 (flyer below). https://www.scdcorp.org/
School districts and affordable offers lookup tool
California Interactive Broadband Map
CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch helps customers resolve disputes with providers
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Southeast Community Development Corporation
The Southeast Community Development Corporation (SCDC), a non-profit organization, was incorporated in April of 1994 and was conceived from the realization that serious social and economic problems existed in Southeast LA cities. They can help you sign up for free or reduced internet access.
Visit their webpage for a list of services and resources:
Bill Payment Options & Services During COVID-19
Where and How to Make a Payment
SoCalGas branch payment offices are closed to the public. There are many other ways to pay your bill. They include:
- Drop off payment at depository boxes at existing branch offices (include bill stub or account number with payment).
- At any one of their Authorized Payment Locations www.socalgas.com/pay-bill/ways-to-pay/payment-locations
- Online at www.socalgas.com/pay-bill
- By phone, to pay by credit, debit card or e-check, call 1-800-427-2200
- By mail, send bill stub with check or money order to:
PO Box C
Monterey Park, CA 91756-0000
What we they doing to Help Customers
- They suspended service disconnections until further notice. This means no customer will have their natural gas turned off due to non-payment.
- They are committed to helping customers experiencing hardships, including from COVID-19.
- If your household income has recently changed, you may now qualify for 20% off your natural gas bill with CARE. Apply online today!
- If you are currently on CARE, you will not be required to recertify.*
- Customer service representatives continue to be available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions, help you select a payment option, or determine if the service your calling about needs attention right away. If in need of assistance, customers are encouraged to call 1-800-427-2200.
- They are waiving late payment fees for Small Business Customers.
*As of March 4, 2020 all CARE customers will remain on the program for the duration of the state of emergency, unless further extended by SoCalGas or the Commission.
SoCalGas is aware that scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak to send phishing emails, texts and social media posts. Please note that SoCalGas has suspended service disconnections to customers who have a hard time paying their bills and does NOT call to demand payment. Please be on the lookout for scams asking for personal information or selling phony products and never click on malicious links or attachments. For the most up-to-date facts, visit the CDC. Opens in a new window. or WHO. Opens in a new window..
Southern California Edison (SCE)
Resources to help you during COVID-19
Southern California Edison offers a number of payment assistance options for their customers, including payment extensions and arrangements for customers who may need more time to pay their bill. You can also visit their Help Paying Your Bill page to find out what options are available for you.
If someone in your home requires the use of electrically powered medical devices or equipment, you may qualify for their Medical Baseline Allowance program.
Tips and Tools to Help You Save Energy
Here are some tips to help you lower your energy usage while you stay inside:
Scheduled Power Outages
Visit their Outage Center to report an outage, view current outages or check the status of a planned outage in your area.
Southern California Edison is temporarily suspending service disconnections for nonpayment and waiving late fees by request. If you are having trouble paying your bill, you should contact the SCE Customer Contact Center to talk about a payment extension or arrangement. For more information, visit sce.com/billhelp.
If you are a business customer, you also qualify for suspended service disconnection for nonpayment and waiver of late fees by request. You may also qualify for the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program, which will provide 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses. For more information, visit their Small Business Resources page.
To help Californians who are facing economic hardships because of quarantines, taking care of family members or school and business closures, Edison International will make $1 million in donations to local nonprofits whose focus is on providing critical services, food and necessities to vulnerable communities in response to COVID-19.
Don’t fall for scams
Unfortunately, scams targeting utility customers increase during times of uncertainty; we urge you to call 1-800-655-4555 before taking any action, or if you are suspicious about any COVID-19-related emails or calls you receive from people claiming to be with SCE. They will never call you or email you to demand payment and threaten to disconnect your service if payment isn’t received immediately. Learn how to avoid COVID-19 scams.
Clean Power Alliance
Clean Power Alliance is an energy service provider that serves approximately three million customers and one million customer accounts across 32 communities throughout Southern California including the cities of Hawaiian Gardens and Paramount. Below are the resource links they provided:
- Customer Service Center (for general questions about Clean Power Alliance electric service / customer billing questions): 888-585-3788 or firstname.lastname@example.org, www.cleanpoweralliance.org/Customer-Support
- Social Media (for staying up to date on COVID-19 customer resources and tips): https://twitter.com/CleanPowerInfo and https://www.facebook.com/CleanPowerAlliance
- Rate Options (for switching onto our “Lean Power” rate which provides a 1-2% bill savings compared to SCE rates): www.cleanpoweralliance.org/Rates
- Customer Programs (for access to financial incentives): www.cleanpoweralliance.org/ResPowerResponse
- Contact information for anyone in Paramount or Hawaiian Gardens who has questions about Clean Power Alliance and wants to talk directly to someone on staff: Jennifer Ward, Director of External Affairs, email@example.com