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UTC approves auto-enrollment for Northwest Natural COVID-19 customer assistance program

Docket Number: UG-220358 

Eligible customers to automatically receive up to $2,500 toward overdue bills 

LACEY, Wash. - Today state regulators approved a change to Northwest Natural’s existing COVID-19 Assistance Program (CAP), allowing the utility to auto-enroll qualifying low-income customers who have not yet applied for energy assistance. 

Today’s change will streamline the grant awarding process, allowing the company to auto-distribute the remaining balance of its CAP fund that would otherwise expire on Sept. 30, totaling approximately $500,000. Prior to this change, the company could only auto-enroll customers if those customers previously applied for assistance since 2019 and have past-due energy bills. Now, the company will auto-enroll eligible customers who have not previously applied. 

Customers are eligible if they earn up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, which for 2022 is set at $13,590 per year for an individual and $18,310 per year for a married couple. The company has estimated that with this change it will be able to distribute funds to approximately 400 customers to help cover their existing overdue bill amounts up to the $2,500 annual household funding cap. 

Northwest Natural also plans to continue assessing customer eligibility to automatically distribute remaining funds until the balance is exhausted or expires. 

Northwest Natural will send a notice to customers it auto-enrolls explaining that it applied the funds to the customers’ accounts, and information about additional energy assistance programs.  

As of June, of the $652,000 originally authorized for Northwest Natural CAP, the company has distributed more than $144,000 in assistance to customers.  



In 2020, the Utilities and Transportation Commission convened a COVID-19 stakeholder workgroup to address the growing impacts of the pandemic on utility customers, including rapidly increasing overdue bill balances. 

As part of this work, the commission issued several customer protections and required each investor-owned energy utility to create a specific COVID-19 customer assistance fund set at 1% of each company’s 2019 Washington retail revenues. The funds expire when exhausted, or by Sept. 30, 2022. 

Portland-based NW Natural provides natural gas service to about 84,200 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in Southwest Washington. 

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.