Thousands enrolled in Utility Discount Program to reduce utility bill burden during pandemic
information from the City of Seattle
As of the end of August, the City of Seattle has now enrolled 11,825 new households into the Utility Discount Program (UDP) in 2020, including 8,173 through the fast-track application process launched in March to more quickly support customers financially impacted by COVID-19. UDP provides a 60% discount on Seattle City Light (SCL) electricity bills and a 50% discount on Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) water/sewer/garbage bills for income-eligible customers. Through August, there were 41,961 households enrolled in the City assistance program.
“Our communities have enough challenges to deal with during this pandemic. Worrying about whether the lights or water get turned off should not be among those concerns,” said Mayor Durkan. “And recognizing so many are at home working or remote learning, our dedicated City Light and Seattle Public Utilities crews are reporting to work, maintaining essential services and responding to unplanned disruptions as quickly as possible.”
In March 2020, as COVID-19 began to spread in our community, SCL and SPU created a UDP self-certification form for customers. This allows income-eligible residential customers to access heavily discounted utilities by simply signing a short form that attests to their household income, rather than having to provide income documentation. This will provide immediate utility bill relief for customers who are unemployed or underemployed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Additionally, to support customers during these unprecedented times, SCL and SPU will not disconnect service for non-payment, are waiving late and interest fees, and making every effort to proactively provide financial support, such as flexible payment plans and access to other assistance programs (see all below). And absent any changes during the 2021 budget process, the utilities are planning no increase to retail rates in 2021.
“We know that many people are dealing with the negative financial impacts of Covid-19 and our hearts go out to them,” said Mami Hara, General Manager of Seattle Public Utilities. “Expanding enrollment in the City’s Utility Discount Program and creating an easy application process was the right thing to do. We hope that customers who are experiencing financial stress will apply for the Utility Discount Program or contact us to arrange a flexible payment arrangement. Staying in touch with us helps customers stay on top of their bills and we work hard to make the process as easy as possible."
“As humiliated and sad as I feel about losing my incredible job in an instant due to COVID-19 after being with a company in business for 34 years, I know I need to do everything possible to take care of my bills and other financial issues,” said one Utility customer. “When I called about my Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities bills, I was treated with utmost respect and empathy.”
While walk-in counters remain closed, SPU and SCL customer service representatives are available by phone at 206-684-3000 or online at https://myutilities.seattle.gov/.
“City Light’s goal is to provide safe, affordable, and reliable power to Seattle and surrounding communities; customers are our number one priority,” said Debra Smith, City Light General Manager. “With many people experiencing financial hardships due to the impact of social distancing and business closures, we’re here to help any customer – resident or business – struggling to pay their utility bill due to COVID-19.”
Below is all potential assistance available. Customers don’t have to navigate the course on their own – the City will help assess their situation and work to determine the best path forward. Any customer needing assistance should simply call 206-684-3000 or send an email 24/7 at https://myutilities.seattle.gov/.
Utility Discount Program (UDP)
Income-eligible customers can apply to the Utility Discount Program and receive a 60% discount on Seattle City Light electricity bills and a 50% discount on Seattle Public Utilities water/sewer/garbage bills. Check for eligibility and apply here or call 206-684-0268.
Customers who arrange payment plans can postpone the due dates of electricity and water/sewage/garbage bills and avoid late fees. Submit Payment Plan requests online to Seattle City Light or Seattle Public Utilities or call 206-684-3000.
The Federal Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides assistance to customers whose main source of heat is electricity, gas or heating oil. We can help assess eligibility or you can call our partners, depending on where you live:
·Residents of Seattle call 206-486-6828 or schedule online at Byrd Barr Place.
·Residents of South King County call 253-517-2263 or schedule online at Multi-Service Center.
·Residents of North & East King County call 425-658-2592 or schedule online at Hopelink.
Emergency Low Income Assistance (ELIA)
The Emergency Low Income Assistance (ELIA) program is typically for customers who have received a 10-day notice on balances of $250 or more. However, due to the COVID-19 emergency order suspending disconnections, City Light has suspended that requirement and is offering ELIA assistance, up to $200, to eligible participants. Customers can apply for emergency assistance by calling 206-684-3688.
Emergency Assistance Program (EAP)
The Emergency Assistance Program (EAP) provides emergency assistance to SPU income-eligible customers. The program provides assistance, up to $448 a year, on a customer’s water/sewer/garbage bill or for customers with children in the home, up to $448 twice a year. Customers can apply for emergency assistance by calling (206) 684-5800.
Project Share will initially pay up to $250 toward a customer’s City Light bill. If the customer makes a payment within two weeks of referral or interview, Project Share will contribute a matching pledge of $1 for every $1 the customer pays, with $500 being the maximum amount available. There will soon be a way for people to help SPU customers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. A SPU donation program will be established and set up later this year. Customers can call for a referral at 206-684-3000.
Access business resources, payment options, and an optional free energy assessment for your business. Learn more here. You can always get in touch with our business customer service advisors directly at (206) 256-5200 or at SCL_BusinessServices@seattle.gov.
When you call, if you would like interpretation in a language other than English, say the language you need (e.g., “Spanish, please!” or “Vietnamese, please!”) when the advisor answers, and they will connect you to an interpreter.