Too Few People Signing Up for Lower Energy Rates

SoCalGas enlists nonprofits to spread the word.

By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer

More than 300,000 Southern California Gas customers are now eligible for lower rates under new income guidelines for assistance, the utility company reminded customers last week.

While as many as 1.5 million customers have already enrolled in the state-sponsored Energy Savings Assistance Program, SoCalGas says many of their customers have yet to take advantage of opportunities to save money on their utility bill.

“A lot of customers fear they have to show [proof of] their [immigration] status,” said Jacqueline M. Flores, communications advisor at SoCalGas. That question never comes up, assured Flores during a meeting with community partners.

Add in consumers who either don’t know about the money-saving programs or mistakenly believe they don’t quality, and there is a large number of ratepayers missing out on no-cost, energy efficient home improvements such as door weather-stripping, attic insulation and low-flow showerheads, the utility company said.

Not to mention cash savings on their monthly home gas bill through the California Alternative Rates for Energy (CARE) program, which for qualified customers can be as much as a 20 percent discount.

SoCalGas representatives share new income guidelines for its Energy Savings Assistance Program with local nonprofits.  (SoCalGas)

SoCalGas representatives share new income guidelines for its Energy Savings Assistance Program with local nonprofits. (SoCalGas)

“SoCalGas is committed to enrolling as many of our eligible customers as possible into the assistance programs we offer,” said Rodger Schwecke, vice president of customer solutions for SoCalGas.

Customers who receive benefits from public programs such as WIC, Medi-Cal or CalFresh may qualify for the Energy Savings Assistance Program. If they don’t, they may still qualify under the new income guidelines.

For example, according to SoCalGas, a family of four is eligible for the assistance program if their total household income is less than $48,500. A family of five can qualify for the program if the household income is less than $56, 820.

Income eligibility was raised $400 compared to last year to increase the numbers who may qualify.

Having a good program, however, is not always enough, sometimes it takes more than flyers and brochures to get the word out to customers, SoCalGas Local Outreach Manager Denise Camps told EGP.

“It doesn’t matter if the information is in English and Spanish if they can’t read it,” Campos said. That’s why the utility company is teaming up with local nonprofit groups to help get the word out.

For many immigrants from Latin American countries of indigenous decent, Spanish is their second language, acknowledged Mari Riddle, president and CEO of Centro Latino for Literacy.

“When they get their bills it’s like Greek to them,” she said. “They depend on their kids or neighbors to read their bill.”

The nonprofit has helped thousands of low- to non-literate individuals learn to read, write and other pre-ESL literacy skills. The organization recently allowed SoCalGas representatives to go in and share information about the new guidelines and to encourage customers to call the toll-free customer service number if they need help.

“Some people need that hand holding through the process,” said Norma E. Fernandez, regional manager for Everyoneon, a nonprofit dedicated to getting people online and comfortable using technology.

Fernandez told EGP they are now helping SoCalGas customers through the cost-saving application process.

“We care about the community we serve,” said Campos. “We want them to save money and conserve energy.”

 

For more information about the new income guidelines, visit socalgas.com or call (800) 331-7593.

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August 20, 2015  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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