Home | News Room | News Blog

CPUC News Blog

Consumer Protections and Resources for Wildfire Victims

 Permanent link   All Posts


The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is reminding Californians that energy, natural gas, water, and telecommunication utilities must implement disaster relief protections for customers of affected areas during any state of emergency, such as that declared on October 27, 2019 by Governor Gavin Newsom due to fires and evacuations across the state.

The CPUC previously approved customer protections and emergency disaster relief programs that are automatically available as result of a wildfire state of emergency being declared in California. The consumer protections for wildfire victims include:
  

Electric and Natural Gas Utilities

  • Disconnections: Wildfire-impacted customers cannot be disconnected for nonpayment and associated fees.
  • Discontinue Billing: Utilities must discontinue billing customers whose homes are not capable of receiving utility services, and utilities cannot asses a disconnection charge.
  • Waive Deposits: Utilities must waive deposit requirements for affected residents seeking to re-establish service for one year and must expedite move-in and move-out service requests.
  • Estimated Billing: Utilities must stop energy usage estimates for billing for the time the home/unit was unoccupied as a result of the wildfires.
  • Payment Plans: Affected customers who have prior arrearages and have lost their homes or have been displaced and are seeking to establish service in a new residence must be offered a payment plan with an initial payment of no greater than 20 percent of the amount due, and with equal installments for the remainder of not less than 12 billing cycles.
  • Minimum Bills: Utilities must prorate any monthly access charge or minimum charges for affected customers typically assessed so that no customer will bear any of these costs for the time period after the customer's home was rendered unserviceable by a fire.

Water and Sewer Utilities

  • Unpaid Bills: Water companies must work cooperatively with affected customers to resolve unpaid bills and minimize disconnections for non payment.
  • Waive Reconnection and Facilities Fees: Water companies must waive reconnection or facilities fees for affected customers and suspend deposits for affected customers who must reconnect to the system.
  • Payment Plans: Water companies must provide reasonable payment options to affected customers.
  • Bill Waiver: Water companies must waive bills for victims who lost their homes.

Landline Telephone Companies

AT&T California, Frontier Communications, Consolidated and other carriers of last resort are required to provide refunds for failure to provide service. Landline providers are required to:

  • Waive the one-time activation fee for establishing remote call forwarding, remote access to call forwarding, call forwarding features and messaging services.
  • Waive the monthly rate for one month for remote call forwarding, remote access to call forwarding, call forwarding, call forwarding features, and messaging services.
  • Waive the service charge for installation of service at the temporary or new permanent home of the customer and again when the customer moves back to the premises.
  • Waive the fee for one jack and associated wiring at the temporary location regardless of whether the customer has an Inside Wire Plan.
  • Waive the fee for up to five free jacks and associated wiring for Inside Wiring Plan customer upon their return to their permanent home.
  • Waive the fee for one jack and associated wiring for non-Plan customers upon their return to their permanent home.

Mobile Wireless Companies
Wireless carriers are urged to allow customers to defer or phase payment for coverage charges for data, talk, and text for defined periods of time, and to extend payment dates for service for defined periods of time for impacted customers. Wireless providers and mobile virtual network operators are asked to:

  • Deploy mobile equipment, including Cells on Wheels and Cells on Light Trucks, to supplement service in areas that need additional capacity to ensure access to 911/E911 service.
  • Provide device charging stations in areas where impacted wireless customers seek refuge from fires.
  • Provide Wi-Fi access in areas where impacted wireless customers seek refuge from fires.
  • Provide mobile phones for customers seeking shelter from a disaster to use temporarily at a county or city designated shelter.
  • Consider providing temporary replacement phones for customers whose phones were lost or damaged as a result of a disaster or evacuation.
  • Consider providing temporary replacement phones for customers whose phones were lost or damaged as a result of a disaster or evacuation.


In addition to disaster relief protections for utility customers, there are other state resources and support for those that are affected by the wildfires.

Business Operations

  • Waived state procurement rules to allow the state to contract with businesses to mitigate emergency events.
  • Relaxed licensing requirements to allow facilities to continue operations and accommodate patient needs.
  • The California Air Resources Board is exercising maximum discretion in use of portable generators.
  • Relaxed some requirements to allow interstate trucks to enter California to assist in restoration of power lines and other forms of recovery.

Resources for Residents

  • Workers who have lost work due to extreme weather events can apply for benefits immediately; Governor Newsom waived the one-week waiting period suspension for unemployment insurance benefits. Find more information at the Employment Development Department website.
  • Protections from price gouging on housing, gas, food, and other essential supplies, are in place for 30 days following the Governor’s State of Emergency proclamation. Find more information at the Attorney General website.
  • Families enrolled in the CalFresh program who have suffered food loss as a result of a utility Public Safety Power Shut-off (PSPS) event are eligible for food replacement.
  • California Emergency Medical Services Authority has positioned emergency ambulance strike teams to support individuals with power dependent health equipment.
  • Wellness checks are available for vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, which is coordinated through a partnership with the Health and Human Services Agency, Service Employees International Union, and United Domestic Workers.
  • Telecommunications companies are providing mobile hotspots and data access without charge.
  • Community foundations are taking donations to support victims of the recent wildfires and those who have been impacted by PSPS events.

Resources for Businesses

  • GO-Biz has developed a business resource guide with low-interest loan information and advisory services for businesses.
  • Three state loan programs to support small businesses with funds as low as $500 and up to $5 million through a network of private lending partners, banks, and mission-based nonprofit lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions.
  • IBank Loan Programs
    • Disaster Relief Loan Guarantee Program: IBank will issue loan guarantees up to 95 percent of the loan through its partner Financial Development Corporations to help small business borrowers who were impacted by disasters or PSPS events and who need term loans or lines of credit for working capital. This disaster program will help lenders and small businesses by providing loan guarantees of up to $1 million for small business borrowers in declared disaster areas. Small businesses, including small farms, nurseries, agriculture-related enterprises, and nonprofits that have suffered an economic loss Resources for Businesses and/or physical damage may apply.
    • Jump Start Loan Program: IBank is offering loans from $500 to $10,000 to low-wealth entrepreneurs in the declared disaster and emergency areas through its Jump Start Loan Program. IBank established the Jump Start Loan Program in 2016 as a small loan and financial literacy/technical assistance program designed for low income small businesses in low-wealth communities, including businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, people with disabilities, and those previously incarcerated. Access to IBank’s Disaster Relief Loan Guarantee Program and Jump Start Loan Program can be made through its partner Financial Development Corporations (FDCs).
  • California Capital Access Program
    • The California Capital Access Program for Small Business (CalCAP) encourages banks and other financial institutions to make loans to small businesses that have difficulty obtaining financing. If you own a small business and need a loan for start-up, expansion, or working capital, you may receive more favorable loan terms from a lender if your loan is enrolled in the CalCAP Loan Loss Reserve Program. This program helps communities by providing financing to businesses that create jobs and improve the economy. Loans are available up to $5 million.
    • CalCAP is a loan loss reserve program that may provide up to 100 percent coverage on losses as a result of certain loan defaults. With CalCAP portfolio support, a lender may be more comfortable underwriting small business loans. Check to see if your commercial lender or financial institution participates in CalCAP or find a participating lender. If your financial institution does not currently participate, it is easy for lenders to sign up. Please have your institution complete the Financial Institution Application and send to CalCAP to get started.


Other Resources and Information

Californians can go to response.ca.gov, a new web portal that provides information and resources for current fires, evacuations, shelters, utility power shutoffs, road closures, health services, and more. For additional resources and information, please see:


For the CPUC’s information on Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS), please visit www.cpuc.ca.gov/PSPS.

 

Read our most recent blog postings in the sidebar at right.


Immigration Guide