Commerce Community Gathers In Holiday Cheer

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Hundreds of families attended the City of Commerce’s annual Community Tree Lighting event on Monday night that featured live performances, skits, photos with Santa and, of course, a much anticipated Christmas tree lighting.

In one of their last appearances as Commerce royalty, Miss Commerce, right, and her court pose with Santa. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

This year, Mayor Lilia Leon and her colleagues on the city council used a “smart phone,” a remote control prop about a foot long, to turn the 40-foot Christmas tree’s lights on.

During a skit, Master of Ceremonies Adolfo Marquez, the city’s interim senior recreation supervisor, jokingly said he was reading the children the “State of the City Address,” and Santa soon arrived to encourage them to shop locally. At one point, Marquez elicited laughter from the crowd when he briefly danced ‘gangnam style’—a popular song and dance reminiscent of the international “Macarena” craze in the 1990s.

Performances by Department of Parks and Recreation dance and performing arts program participants were some of the night’s main attractions, as proud parents, relatives, friends and neighbors watched local children perform to holiday music. The city’s recreational programs were promoted throughout the evening.

During the event, Miss Commerce, Unique Starlene Hernandez, sadly announced that Miss Commerce 2013 pageant applications would be available at the end of this month. Hernandez and members of her court posed with Santa and children who formed a long line to have their photos taken and receive a gift.

The City of Commerce has a Holiday Cheer Program for people wishing to make the holidays a little merrier for their neighbors in need. The program includes a variety of ways to give, including an Adopt a Family option. Donations are being solicited by Dec. 12, for more information call (323) 722-4805.

Highland Park Residents Enjoy Parade Despite Rain

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Despite the rain, residents of Highland Park stood alongside Figueroa Street last weekend dressed in warm clothing and holding on to their umbrellas, determined to watch the 68th Annual Northeast Los Angeles Holiday Parade as it marched its way down the street through the rain.

Students from Franklin High School marched down Figuero Street and performed in the rain during the 68th Annual Northeast Los Angeles Parade. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Toy vendors, food carts and spectators took over the sidewalks of Figueroa Street from Avenue 60 to Avenue 50, as they excitedly watched and cheered as floats and performers that braved the weather to continue the long-standing holiday tradition.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Residentes de Highland Park Disfrutan Desfile en la Lluvia

This year’s parade theme was “People Helping People,” which Highland Park Chamber of Commerce member Margaret Arnold told EGP the Chamber, sponsors of the parade, selected because it expressed the community involvement in the area.

“[The theme] really showed what Highland Park is all about, it shows their attitude,” Arnold said. “If you look at the entries, a lot of them were community organizations that are really involved and help the community year-round.”

The parade had 61 entries sign up to participate in the parade, from local school marching bands and sports teams to horses and dogs, but according to Arnold, a few of the participants did not attend due to the weather conditions.

Celina Luna felt the rain might have been the reason for the decrease in attendance from years prior.

“It was exciting and fun, but the rain ruined it,” Luna said. “It was shorter this year and more schools could have participated.”

Arnold told EGP greater participation from groups in future parades is one of the things they intend to work on.

“In many ways we have it down by this point,” Arnold said. “But we always want to bring out more community groups.”

The parade included performances by local marching bands, dance teams and athletes. Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes also made an appearance in the parade, repeatedly shouting “Merry Christmas” to the crowd of onlookers.

Highland Park resident Grace Stone told EGP she felt the rain made the parade less enjoyable, but that did not stop her from sticking around.

“I didn’t get to see all the performances because of the rain but it was still good this year,” said Stone.

Spectators like Erica Berber did not mind the rain, but worried about the participants who had to perform in the poor weather conditions.

“I feel bad for the kids that had to walk in the rain,” Berber said.

Eddie Rivera, one of the parade’s organizers, pointed out that the rain towards the end of the parade made it more exciting for the crowd.

“Everyone seemed to have fun and they stayed despite the rain,” he said.

Arnold told EGP that the annual tradition, which began in the middle of WWII, continues to bring the community together.

“In the middle of a major crisis [the residents] felt they needed to show community spirit,” Arnold said. “We want to continue in that same tradition.”

View more photos from the Parade : Photos From The 68th Annual Northeast Holiday Parade

Garfield High School Home to Community Clinic

December 6, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

East Los Angeles residents have a new community clinic and it happens to be located in one of the neighborhood’s most beloved institutions, Garfield High School.

The Wellness Center at Garfield High School will offer free and reduced-rate medical care to students, staff, and local residents. The center, operated by Bienvenidos Children’s Center in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), will also offer mental health and dental services.

School officials, parents and students gather to celebrate the opening of the Garfield High School Wellness Center. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The clinic, however, will not replace the school nurse, according to Dr. Rafael Gonzalez-Amuezcua, Bienvenidos director of medical services.

“Our overall goal is to keep our students healthy, so they don’t miss school… so their health is not a barrier to their success in school,” Gonzalez-Amuezcua told EGP.

The clinic means that students could miss a few periods instead of entire days of school if they need medical attention, he said.

It also means students will get the annual physicals and flu shots they are supposed to receive, and will help ensure students get follow-up care when they receive a referral from the school nurse, Garfield Parent Resource Liaison Rosie Marquez told EGP.

Principal Jose Huerta noted that healthy students perform better academically, and the clinic will expose students to the medical field—some through internships.

When he began his career as an educator 20 years ago, he never imagined he would one day see a clinic at the campus to serve not only students but also members of the community, Huerta told EGP.

At the Nov. 29 ribbon cutting ceremony, School Board President Mónica García said it was a great day for East Los Angeles, Garfield High School and the LAUSD.

Our partnership with Bienvenidos and the opening of the Wellness Center in our school provides access for all students and quality services to help them be in their seats everyday ready to learn and know that support is close by, García said in a written statement.

The clinic opened a week prior to its ribbon cutting ceremony and includes a dispensary with prepackaged medication supervised by a pharmacist, according to Gonzalez-Amuezcua.

This Wellness Center is the most recently announced on the eastside, following in the footsteps of Wilson, Torres and Roosevelt high schools. A total of 15 such centers are located on campuses across the school district, according to LAUSD Student Health and Human Services Director Rene Gonzalez.

The school-based clinics are being opened in partnership with community health care providers, such as Bienvenidos, with the guidance of Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health, and about $34 million from LAUSD Joint-Use/Innovation facilities funding, according to the district.

Bienvenidos President and Chief Executive Officer Ritchie Geisel said the clinic’s main clients are Garfield students, but the services are not exclusively for them.

“Bienvenidos’ mission is to provide a compassionate community of care dedicated to healing children and their families, and we are recognized in the community as a leader in providing culturally responsive medical services,” Geisel said in a written statement. “Our community benefits from a combination of integrated services and resources through cross-program collaboration. With this holistic approach to care, we provide a safety net for children and their families with the goal of establishing a medical home for the students and community served through our school-based Wellness Centers.”

Garfield High School’s Wellness Center cost $1.6 million and is part of LAUSD’s $19.5 billion New School Construction and Modernization Program, according to the school district.

Garfield’s Wellness Center is located at 501 South Woods Street, Los Angeles, CA 90022. For more information, to inquire about health services or to make an appointment call: (323) 269-2623.

Mobile Health Clinic and Community Fair This Friday

UnitedHealthcare and Bienvenidos will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony this Friday, Dec. 7, to launch a Mobile Health Clinic that will serve families in East Los Angeles. Speakers will include U.S. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Bienvenidos President & CEO Ritchie Geisel, and UnitedHealthcare of California CEO Brandon Cuevas.

The health fair from 10am to 1pm will offer free flu shots, screenings for diabetes and hypertension, and tips from experts on health, wellness and nutrition.

The event will be located at the Bienvenidos Health Clinic, 507 South Atlantic, Los Angeles, CA 90022. For more information call (323) 268-9191.

Economists Call Prop 30 A ‘Double-Edged Sword’

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The passage of Proposition 30, which is aimed primarily at funding education, is hailed by some analysts as heralding the end of California’s budget woes, but the tax measure is actually a “double-edged sword” that may not provide long-term solutions, according to a UCLA economic
forecast released Wednesday.

The proposition, which boosts the sales tax by a quarter-cent and raises taxes on higher-income residents, represents an investment in education but fails to address long-term funding, “and it holds out the specter of making things worse rather than better,” wrote UCLA Anderson School senior economist Jerry Nickelsburg.

Nickelsburg noted that a recent report by the state Legislative Analysts Office concluded that Proposition 30, combined with a continuing economic recovery and budget cuts, have led to the “possible end of a decade of acute state budget challenges.”

But Nickelsburg said that while Proposition 30 provides some “breathing room,” it is not a sure-fire cure, and increased taxes always lead to some “disincentive effects.”

“For example, higher income taxes may reduce the demand for living in California as individuals follow incentives to other locales,” he wrote. “If that were the case, then the appreciation rate of housing would decline and part of the increase in taxes would be borne by homeowners in a decrease in the value of their assets. This will impact property tax revenue as well.”

The long-term impacts of the sales tax hike are difficult to predict, Nickelsburg wrote, noting that previous tax rate changes have had mixed results. Overall, however, he said passage of the measure will not dramatically change earlier predictions about the state’s economy over the next two years.

Proposition 30 could “decrease uncertainty and increase optimism about California as an investment locale,” he wrote.

“We take the optimistic view here. Consequently, we have marginally lowered the forecast for 2013 from our September outlook, but kept 2014 as a year in which California growth will once again exceed the U.S.”

On the national front, UCLA economists predicted that Congress and President Barack Obama would reach a compromise to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” brought on by the pending end of previously enacted tax cuts combined with automatic spending cuts.

Although the shape of a compromise remains unclear for now, the U.S. economy is still expected to see modest growth in the near-term — with gross domestic product increasing 0.7 percent in the current quarter and at less than 2 percent during the first half of 2013, according to economists.

Looking into 2014, “we can visualize growth accelerating to a run rate in excess of 3 percent,” UCLA senior economist David Shulman wrote in his section of the forecast.

“In this environment the unemployment rate will remain close to 8 percent in 2013, but decline to 7.2 percent by the end of 2014,” he wrote.

“Although this reduction in unemployment appears modest, we are forecasting job growth on the order of 160,000 a month in 2013 and 200,000 a month in 2014.

Not great, but a small improvement from recent years.”

Problem of Illegal Boardinghouses Needs Immediate Action

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s very hard to do something that is for the best when you know some people will be hurt.

We’re talking about the fact that the Los Angeles City Council has been unable to find the will to do something about all the illegal boardinghouses springing up across the city, which have unfortunately become home to many poor people.

Because they are not regulated, many of these illegal boardinghouses are operating without the required health and safety permits and inspections. The operators of these places are cramming people into living spaces built to accommodate fewer residents, and in many cases, reaping big profits without insuring the health and welfare of their tenants, or the surrounding community for that matter.

When discovered, many of these boarding facilities have been found to be infested with insects, rats and mold, and to contain dangerous electrical wiring, no insulation and inadequate plumbing. Two people were killed last month in a fire at a boardinghouse in Pasadena where 19 people were reported to be living.

With large numbers of often unrelated people living in close proximity, unsanitary conditions seem to proliferate. Psychologists say these conditions create added stress and anger, and at times force people to violently act out.

We recognize that not all the owners of these boardinghouses are greedy opportunists. Some are just regular people facing difficult financial times and struggling to make ends meet, including paying the mortgage on the property. The tenants in these places usually are not to blame either, they just can’t find another place to live that they can afford.

We have been hearing a lot in recent years about the large number of home foreclosures and declining values. What we haven’t been hearing about, but what many people are struggling with, is the large increase in apartment rents that is forcing some people to live in their cars, on the street, or in boardinghouses like the one in Northridge where four people were found shot to death on Sunday.

Had it not been for that tragic killing, the appalling conditions in the unpermitted two-story boardinghouse in a quiet neighborhood may have continued unchecked, posing a danger to the residents and the people living nearby.

So while we sympathize with the people who feel they have no choice but to live in one of these facilities, it is time for the members of the Los Angeles City Council to put on their big boy/girl hats and address the growing problem of illegal boardinghouses.

Given our economy and lack of affordable housing, an outright ban may not be the solution, but certainly developing regulations and enforcement of health and safety standards is an imperative.

The residents in these facilities deserve better living conditions, as do the neighbors forced to endure the extra trash and lack of street parking caused by the added density.

We suggest that the city get to work on regulations that will allow them to move people in these facilities to temporary housing, and the owners of these illegal boardinghouses help foot the housing bill and the work needed to bring these places up to code.

It’s also time for Los Angeles’ Dept. of Building and Safety to start investigating all complaints from the public related to boardinghouses.

There is no time to delay, so get on with it.

Dodging the Fiscal Swindle

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Talk of the so-called “fiscal cliff” has grown from a murmur to a roar this holiday season. But that doesn’t make this cliff any less imaginary than Santa Claus.

The White House and Republican lawmakers are furiously negotiating a “grand bargain” to avert a rash of spending cuts and tax hikes that might scuttle the recovery. Unfortunately, their deal may include unnecessary and arbitrary Social Security and Medicare cuts.

Fiscal policy, like foreign policy, isn’t everyone’s favorite subject. But all Americans need to realize that those vital earned-benefit programs didn’t create this huge deficit. Here’s what did cause it: Washington cut taxes on the rich while waging lengthy wars of choice and the Great Recession depressed tax revenue when the housing bubble burst.

Raising the retirement age to balance the budget would be as wrongheaded as invading a Middle Eastern country run by a brutal leader to root out caches of weapons of mass destruction that — it turns out — don’t even exist. Wait. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Sure, those looming cuts could inflict serious damage. But the biggest danger is that the White House and Congress will rush a budget deal that would rip our already threadbare safety net and still fail to keep the fragile recovery on track.

We’re not a poor country. We’re just suffering from a poverty of imagination and courage. With too few options on the table, it just looks like some terrible choices are inevitable.

At a time when fewer and fewer senior citizens can afford to stop working in their golden years and pensions are becoming an endangered species, why is Social Security even on the table? How did it become the centerpiece?

This “fiscal cliff” hysteria could easily trigger a grand fiscal swindle. But it doesn’t have to — because we’re not broke.

My organization, the Institute for Policy Studies, has identified 20 creative tax and spending ideas that would balance the budget. This proposal would empower Uncle Sam to continue and even expand programs that help people in need and rebuild our infrastructure.

Our list of 20 proposed revenue-raisers and spending cuts isn’t exhaustive but it does demonstrate that there are commonsense ways to put our country on a more sustainable path.

These ideas would narrow the federal budget deficit by $881 billion a year, nearly eliminating it altogether. More than half of this savings would come from fairly taxing Wall Street, corporations, and the rich. The rest would come from right-sizing the Pentagon, taxing pollution, ending climate-killing subsidies for fossil fuels and other forms of dirty energy, and improving our land-use policies.

Our proposal would leave plenty of resources for the nation’s pressing human and environmental needs, and stave off those looming across-the-board cuts.

There are sensible ways to achieve a more sustainable budget without hurting the most vulnerable among us. But every saved cent shouldn’t pay for deficit reduction. Whether we leap off a cliff or just trip over a curb in 2013, the federal government should direct some budget savings toward long-neglected priorities.

After all, tens of millions of us will remain uninsured and under-insured after the Affordable Care Act’s full implementation. The foreclosed-upon need more help, not less. As everyone whose home got washed away during Superstorm Sandy learned first-hand, adapting to the extreme weather that’s become our new normal and doing what we can to slow climate change will require major public investment.

Instead of freaking out about a theoretical cliff, we need to do something about the real challenges that could wreck our future.

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a national non-profit editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. She edited the new IPS report We’re Not Broke: A commonsense guide to avoiding the fiscal swindle while making the United States more equitable, green, and secure. IPS-dc.org

Under Capitalism, Welfare State’s Main Function is Corporate Welfare

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Thanks to a Twitter friend, I just stumbled across remarks from 2005 in which Walmart CEO Lee Scott called on Congress to pass a higher minimum wage:

“The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade and we believe it is out of date with the times. We can see first-hand at Wal-Mart how many of our customers are struggling to get by. Our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between pay checks.”

At first glance this seems decidedly odd, coming as it does from the CEO of a company which — as you know if you’ve been following the Black Friday news — is notorious for keeping its workers’ pay as low as humanly possible.

But if you think about it, there’s really no contradiction at all.

There’s a fundamental prisoner’s dilemma at the heart of capitalism. It’s in the interest of large corporations collectively to guarantee sufficient purchasing power to keep the trucks moving and the inventories turning over. But it’s in the interest of individual large corporations to keep labor costs as low as possible.

Likewise, it’s in individual employers’ interests to pay only enough to maintain employees in subsistence while they’re actually working, without enough of a surplus to save against periods of sickness or unemployment. But it’s in the collective interest of employers to pay enough to cover the minimum reproduction cost of labor power.

Overcoming such prisoners’ dilemmas is the main purpose of the capitalists’ state. When the state mandates a minimum wage sufficient to facilitate the reproduction of the workforce (of course it doesn’t in practice, outside the European “social democratic” model of capitalism), the cost falls on all employers in a given industry equally. And unlike the case of a private, voluntary cartel, individual employers are unable to defect for the sake of a short-term advantage from double-crossing their competitors. So funding the minimum reproduction cost of labor-power is no longer an issue of cost competition among employers; it’s a collective cost of an entire industry that can be passed on to consumers as a cost-plus markup, via administered pricing.

Marx had a lot to say about this phenomenon, as illustrated by the Ten-Hours Act in Britain (Capital, vol. 1 ch. 10).

“These acts curb the passion of capital for a limitless draining of labour-power, by forcibly limiting the working-day by state regulations, made by a state that is ruled by capitalist-and landlord. … [T]he limiting of factory labour was dictated by the same necessity which spread guano over the English fields. The same blind eagerness for plunder that in the one case exhausted the soil, had, in the other, torn up by the roots the living force of the nation.”

This common interest in preventing “exhaustion of the soil,” Marx argued, explained the counterintuitive support of many capitalists — as exemplified by employer Josiah Wedgwood — for the Ten-Hours Bill.

The state, in many ways, functions as an executive committee of the economic ruling class, carrying out for them in common many necessary functions it’s not in their interest to carry out individually. The state, in short, cleans up the capitalists’ messes for them.

Things like the minimum wage, collective bargaining, and universal healthcare may be perceived by individual capitalists as a restraint or an imposition. But they’re supported by the smarter capitalists — especially those in the industries that benefit most from them. Just consider the role of General Electric CEO Gerard Swope in the business coalition behind the New Deal.

The minimum wage increases aggregate purchasing power among the working class at large, and helps secure employers a reliable pool of labor power on a sustainable basis. The welfare state keeps unemployment, hunger and homelessness from reaching politically destabilizing levels that — without the state cleaning up the capitalists’ mess at taxpayer expense — might result in capitalism being torn down from below. Universal healthcare, whether on the British or Canadian model, externalizes labor costs on the taxpayer which would otherwise be (and are, in countries like the U.S.) borne by employers who provide health insurance as a benefit.

Any time you hear soccer mom rhetoric about “our working families,” or self-congratulatory platitudes to the effect that “Democrats care,” look behind the voice and take a look at what the hands are actually doing. In a freed market — without the state to do the capitalists’ bidding — corporate capitalism would wither like a garden slug with salt on its back. The state works for the capitalists, not for you.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory


Bell Gardens Business Owners Talk Security, Surveillance

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Hoping to protect their businesses from theft, Bell Gardens business owners attended a meeting where they learned ways to deter crime in the area through the use of video surveillance.

The Bell Gardens Chamber of Commerce put together the event as part of their business watch series. The Chamber invited representatives from Hunter Security, a video surveillance company, to talk to the Bell Gardens business owners about how their security program could be used to fight against burglary.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Empresarios de Bell Gardens Hablan Acerca de la Seguridad

Sam Bell, vice president of Metal Surfaces, told EGP that he was interested in a partnership between the police department and video surveillance due to previous thefts at his business location. He attended the event in hopes of finding ways to improve his rapport with the city’s police department and with his fellow business owners.

“The goal is to keep the theft down so people want to live in the area, so businesses want to stay in the area,” Bell said. “We try to maintain profitability, which is the core of all the industry and to keep people employed.”

Chamber President Ed Moore told EGP that the Business Watch group was launched almost two years ago to provide information on topics of security.

“The value of this is bringing information to the business owners in Bell Gardens,” Moore said. “The information that we can develop on crime trends and security issues are going to be of value to the membership.”

James A. Pollock, president of Quality Compressor, told EGP he hopes more businesses get involved with the group so they can work together to keep crime down in the area.

“I’m interested in co-opting with the police department and the business community to make the community safer,” Pollock said.

The group tries to meet every quarter and covers topics such as employee theft, bad checks, graffiti, gang activity and general crime that affect any business, Moore said.

He urged business owners to join the business watch group, which is not exclusive to members of the Chamber, but open to all Bell Gardens businesses.

“They should come to gain the information, let their voice be heard, express their concerns and interest, let us know what is of value to them,” Moore said. “Every business is going to have a concern, what concern is your business going to have?”

For more information about the Business Watch Group, contact the Bell Gardens Chamber of Commerce at (562) 806-2355.

There’s a New Sheriff’s Captain in East L.A.

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

After about 11 years with the same captain at its helm, the East Los Angeles Sheriffs Station is undergoing a change in leadership. Capt. James P. Wolak has replaced Capt. Henry M. Romero, who was the ranking officer at the station since 2001. Romero was promoted to commander and now oversees an entire region.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Nuevo Liderazgo en la Estación del Alguacil del Este de Los Ángeles

Nuevo Liderazgo en la Estación del Alguacil del Este de Los Ángeleshttp://egpnews.com/2012/12/nuevo-liderazgo-en-la-estacion-del-alguacil-del-este-de-los-angeles/

Captain James P. Wolak is a 23-year-veteran of LASD. (Photo courtesy of LASD)

Wolak, a 23-year-veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was promoted by Sheriff Lee Baca and assigned to the East Los Angeles Station in October.

Though Wolak has never worked in the East LA Station jurisdiction, composed of predominantly Latino majority communities, he said he is a certified  by the Sheriff’s Dept. as a  bilingual Spanish-speaker.

The East Los Angeles Station polices unincorporated East Los Angeles and the cities of Commerce, Cudahy and Maywood.

“I look forward to partnering with the residents and the school district to ensure the community is the safest in the County,” Wolak told EGP in an email, responding to a question asking how he feels about his new assignment.

Wolak joined the Sheriff’s Department in 1989 and his previous assignments include the Men’s Central Jail, Lakewood Station, and the Recruit Training Unit. As a sergeant, Wolak worked at Temple Station and in the Personnel Unit. And as a lieutenant, he was watch commander at Norwalk Station, Service Area Lieutenant in the city of Paramount, Operations Lieutenant at Industry Station and executive aide to the Undersheriff.

Wolak has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science from Cal Poly Pomona and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Woodbury University. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is married and has four children.

Romero is now assigned to the Sheriff’s Field Operations Region 3, which includes the East Los Angeles area in addition to Cerritos, Industry, Lakewood, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, San Dimas, and Walnut, according to Sgt. Rich Peña of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau.

SoCalGas Helps Those In Need

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) is once again inviting customers and employees to help people having a hard time paying for their utilities by contributing to the company’s Gas Assistance Fund, a bill-assistance program that helps income-qualified customers and those facing financial hardships with a one-time grant of up to $100 per customer.

“The Gas Assistance Fund helps customers who need assistance to stay warm in winter and stretch their budget toward other important necessities,” said Gillian Wright, director of customer programs for SoCalGas, adding that the program has been helping “friends and neighbors in our communities over the past 30 years.”

Administered by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Gas Assistance Fund has helped more than 200,000 SoCalGas customers pay their natural gas utility bills in times of need. Since 1983, SoCalGas customers, employees, and shareholders have contributed more than $18 million, with the funds then distributed annually.

Customers interested in making a donation may mail their voluntary tax-deductible contributions to: United Way, Gas Assistance Fund, File 56826, Los Angeles, CA 90074-6826, or donate online at www.unitedwayla.org.

SoCalGas also said that customers who are having a hard time paying their natural gas bill should immediately contact SoCalGas to work out special payment arrangements or to find out if they qualify for other bill-assistance programs.

The company collects donations to the Gas Assistance Fund throughout the year and will begin distributing funds between February and the end of May 2013 or until the funds are depleted, according to a company press release. Customers can visit socalgas.com (search “GAF”) to learn if they qualify for a grant.

For information on other SoCalGas assistance programs and services, such as reducing home energy costs, visit socalgas.com, or call toll-free (800) 427-2200 or (800) 342-4545 in Spanish.

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