The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in massive levels of unemployment, in turn dramatically shrinking the budgets of many apartment dwellers. To save money, some people may change their heating or air conditioning use habits, but if your financial situation requires you to scale back on utility spending more urgently, you may have other options. Many utility companies and state governments have enacted COVID-19 utility relief measures that may make your life significantly less stressful. To give you an idea of the potential options in your area, here are three prominent examples of COVID-19 utility relief.
1. San Diego Gas & Electric unveils assistance programs
In Southern California, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has rolled out assistance programs that can drastically lower utility bills for people whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. SDG&E is offering many of its newly jobless customers utility bill reductions of 30 percent or more through its CARE program, to which even people receiving unemployment benefits can apply. SDG&E also directs all non-qualifying CARE applicants to its FERA initiative, through which families of at least three people can receive a monthly utility bill discount of at least 18 percent. No formal documentation is required – applying is as simple as going here.
2. Additional California utility companies pledge not to shut off
If your local utility company isn’t taking steps to lower the amounts it charges you given your lessened income, you might still be safe from having your power or gas cut. In California, SDG&E, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, Liberty Utilities, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District have promised not to cut any customers’ utility access during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to gas and electricity providers, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has also pledged not to disconnect water access to any customers who fail to pay during the pandemic. Utility companies in your state may be taking similar measures to keep you fully powered during the pandemic.
3. New York state government bans utility shut-offs
In general, utility companies have proven to be understanding when it comes to the dire financial circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic poses for many people. However, companies are not necessarily required by law to lessen customers’ financial burdens. The New York state government has acknowledged this gap and passed legislation banning utility companies from cutting their services to any customers during the pandemic.
According to the New York City Comptroller website, the New York Department of Public Service has barred the region’s gas and electricity providers (National Grid and Con Edison, respectively) from suspending service to customers unable to pay their bills. Additionally, Con Edison has suspended any new late payment fees, a move that National Grid has not taken. This policy difference demonstrates a key tenet of COVID-19 relief: State legislation does not necessarily outline how a utility company must work to relieve customers of their monthly bills. Be sure to research your state’s utility legislation and read the fine print of whatever you find.
What are some COVID-19 utility relief programs and laws you know of in your area? Share links and other relevant information in the comments!