Recognizing the financial hardships brought on by inflation, the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic and the recent surge in winter heating bills driven by natural gas market volatility, San Diego Gas & Electric has redoubled its efforts to help its customers by securing and offering debt relief, as well as various bill assistance programs.
Since 2020, SDG&E customers have received about $140 million in debt relief – a combination of state and federal resources that SDG&E has either played a role in securing, administering, or processing. This consists of nearly $114 million SDG&E applied for and secured on behalf of its customers via the California Arrearage Payment Program to offset customers’ outstanding bills incurred between March 4, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021; more than $10 million processed through the federally funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to offset overdue bills; and more than $15 million forgiven under the Arrearage Management Payment Plan.
Additionally, SDG&E has run multiple marketing campaigns and collaborated with many nonprofit, community-based organizations to publicize a variety of assistance programs. About a third of SDG&E customers are enrolled in assistance programs ranging from bill discounts to debt forgiveness to payment arrangements.
“Inflation, the lingering effects of the pandemic, and the recent unprecedented conditions in the natural gas market have caused financial strain for our customers,” said SDG&E Vice President of Customer Services Dana Golan. “Our priority is to help them get the financial relief they need through a variety of assistance programs.”
Numbers at a Glance
- ~ 354,000 SDG&E customers are currently enrolled in the CARE program, which offers 30% or more in bill discounts for income-qualified customers.
- More than 12,000 customers, who don’t qualify for the CARE discount, are enrolled in the FERA program, which offers an 18% discount on electric bills.
- Nearly 11,600 customers are enrolled in the Arrearage Management Payment Plan, a 12-month payment plan that forgives up to $8,000 in utility debt.
- Nearly 50,000 customers are currently enrolled in payment installment plans.
- Nearly 70,000 customers are enrolled in the Medical Baseline Program, which provides a higher allowance of electricity at a lower cost for eligible customers who depend on certain medical devices for their health.