CPUC Creates Web Portal for Streamlined Access to Low-Income Programs
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), in order to increase information and access to affordability programs, today directed the state’s investor-owned energy utilities to create a new web portal that will provide low-income consumers statewide with a single application process from which to obtain information and apply to multiple energy assistance programs.
Programs that will initially be included in the single application process are the Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) program, the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program, and the Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) program. ESA, CARE, and FERA are income-qualified programs available to households at or below 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. ESA provides no-cost, direct install energy efficiency upgrades and services. CARE and FERA provide discounts on electric and natural gas utility bills. Additional programs in other industries may be added to the process in the future.
The single application process, based in a web portal, will help customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Gas Company to access and apply to multiple programs.
“Low-income customers are juggling work, putting food on the table, helping their children with homework and getting to school, and paying bills. They don’t always have the time to go to multiple locations, even online, to apply for programs. The creation of an easy-to-access portal for low-income customers to have a single application for energy programs will save them valuable time, money, and energy,” said Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma, who is assigned to the proceeding.
“I am very supportive of our efforts to streamline and reduce the burden for customers to apply to our offered assistance programs. We should reduce as much of the administrative work that Californians currently face to apply to programs as we can, and I’m happy that the application system will be the platform that accomplishes that,” said Commissioner John Reynolds.
“Creating a single application will remove administrative barriers and enable income-qualified Californians to more easily access and apply to multiple energy assistance programs,” said Commissioner Karen Douglas.
A working group will be formed to help create the web portal that consists of the CPUC, utility staff, representatives of non-energy (i.e., water and telco) utilities, staff from other California state agencies, and community-based organizations and/or other stakeholders.
Senate Bill 1208 (Hueso, 2022) requires the CPUC to develop an application system by June 30, 2024, allowing ESA, CARE, and FERA customers to apply, or begin to apply, to multiple low-income programs through a single process. The legislative intent of SB 1208 (Section 1) is to improve the application process for all low-income utility customer assistance programs, which would include energy utilities and other utilities.
The proposal voted on is available at docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M509/K019/509019634.PDF.
Documents related to the proceeding are available at apps.cpuc.ca.gov/p/A1911003.
The CPUC regulates services and utilities, protects consumers, safeguards the environment, and assures Californians’ access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services. For more information on the CPUC, please visit www.cpuc.ca.gov.