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A Little Help With Electric Bill Makes Big Difference for LA Woman

SCE’s programs for low-income households help stretch limited dollars during tough times.

When Jesstine Washington got injured more than 10 years ago and lost her job as a special aide trainee at an elementary school, bills got tough to pay.

At one point, Washington was out of money and unable to cover the month’s electric bill. That was more serious than just having her electricity cut off.

“In my building, if you can’t maintain your utilities, you can be evicted,” said Washington, 68, who lives in a government-subsidized, low-income apartment in South Los Angeles.

Washington, who reads every insert included with her bill, saw a mailer about Southern California Edison’s Energy Assistance Fund. The fund, administered through the United Way, will pay an electric bill up to $100 once every 12 months for those in need. SCE helped more than 15,000 households last year.

With SCE’s financial assistance, Washington was able to remain in her apartment and has since been transferred to an ongoing SCE assistance program for low-income households called California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE).

Washington said the CARE discount saves her about 30 percent on her electric bill, about $10 to $15 a month.

“If I didn’t have help, I couldn’t make it,” said Washington, who is disabled with rheumatoid arthritis and lives on Social Security and disability income.

The CARE program is available to SCE customers who meet income guidelines according to the program or who have someone in their household participating in at least one of 10 government public assistance programs. The eligible programs range from Medi-Cal/Medicaid to Supplemental Security Income.

A separate SCE program called Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) helps households that meet certain income qualifications. For instance, a household with four people with a total combined gross income of $48,501 to $60,625 would be eligible for FERA assistance on their electric bill.

About 1.3 million SCE customers, or 87 percent of those eligible, are enrolled in the two programs.

“Our income-qualified programs benefit so many households, and our goal is to have every eligible household not only aware, but participate as well, helping them lower their electricity usage and their monthly bill,” said Tory Weber, SCE principal manager, Energy Efficiency Programs.

“This is a preventive measure,” said Washington. “It’s to prevent you from being out in the cold.”