Docket numbers: UG-210193
Assistance available for customers struggling financially due to COVID-19
LACEY, Wash. – Today the Utilities and Transportation Commission approved more than half a million dollars in new energy bill assistance funding for customers struggling financially due to the pandemic.
Starting tomorrow, low-income customers of Northwest Natural Gas will be eligible for bill assistance grants as part of UTC-mandated efforts to assist customers impacted by COVID-19.
The three-member commission previously ordered the utility to create a COVID-19 bill relief program using 1% of its Washington retail revenue among other customer protections.
Customers are eligible for these funds if they earn no more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and individual customers can receive up to $2,500 per year in additional bill assistance.
Customers who received energy assistance in the past may automatically receive a grant to forgive past balances, up to the $2,500 annual limit. The company will be communicating with all customers about this program, but the commission encourages eligible customers who have not received energy assistance to reach out directly to Northwest Natural for instructions on how to apply.
Last month the commission approved similar programs for its four other IOUs.
UTC-regulated electric and natural gas utilities are currently waiving late fees and cannot disconnect customers for nonpayment through July 31.
Gov. Jay Inslee also extended his Ratepayer Assistance and Preservation of Essential Services proclamation, which prohibits all energy, telecommunications, and water providers in Washington state from charging late fees, disconnecting customers due to nonpayment, and refusing to reconnect customers due to nonpayment through July 31.
The UTC will hold a meeting May 12 to assess customer overdue balances, assistance fund distribution, and utility responses to the pandemic.
The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.
Editor’s note: Information about COVID-19 related customer assistance is available on the UTC website.