OW Staff | 4/14/2010, 5 p.m.
ROSEMEAD, CA - Southern California Edison (SCE) and Southern California Gas Company (The Gas Company) have teamed up during the continuing economic crisis to provide help for customers having trouble paying their utility bills.
As soon as customers recognize they may have problems paying their bills, they should contact SCE or The Gas Company to help avoid disconnections and fees that may be required to restore service.
"We are trying to help our customers in need, including those who are unemployed and those having difficulty paying their bills," said Hal D. Snyder, vice president, customer solutions, The Gas Company. "We strongly encourage customers to call us, before their account is overdue and learn about the available assistance programs we offer."
"We will help customers come up with a payment plan that works for them," added Lynda Ziegler, SCE's senior vice president, customer service. "We don't want those who are already at-risk for disconnection to fall further behind. All it takes is a call, and we'll work with the customer to keep their lights on and let them know about programs and services that can help lower their bills in the future."
SCE and The Gas Company offer the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program, which provides a discount of 20% on qualifying customers' monthly electric and natural gas bills. Based on current estimates, nearly 155,000 SCE customers and 230,000 Gas Company customers are eligible for the CARE program, but have not yet enrolled. Customers who sign up for CARE with one utility are usually enrolled in the other utility's program automatically.
Additionally, through its Energy Management Assistance program, SCE offers free energy efficient appliances, pool pumps, weatherization services, lighting, air conditioners and other efficiency measures for income-qualified renters and homeowners. Energy efficiency is essential to keeping electricity bills low and for helping grid reliability, especially during the hot summer days, when air conditioners are running.
The Gas Company's Direct Assistance Program provides energy-saving home improvements to income-qualified renters and homeowners. Free services include: door weather-stripping and caulking to keep out drafts; attic insulation to keep the home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter; low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators that can save energy used to heat water and furnace, and water heater repair or replacement (owner-occupied homes only).
The utilities also encourage customers, who need additional help. to call 211 to connect with community service programs throughout California.
To learn more about economic assistance and energy efficiency programs and other ways the utilities help customers keep current on their bills, visit SCE at www.sce.com/assistance or call (800) 950-2356; and visit The Gas Company at www.socalgas.com/extrahelp or call (800) 427-2200.