Energy Bill Relief for Struggling Families
For nearly 60 years, Community Action Partnership of Orange County has been assisting families, children and seniors struggling with the cycle of poverty in Southern California. In addition to providing essential food bank and bill relief programs, the nonprofit addresses the root causes of poverty and advocates for change through systemic reforms and social justice to build stronger communities.
With post-pandemic challenges, the current economic climate and basic household costs skyrocketing, many families and individuals who have never needed supportive services find themselves in crisis.
“As of this May, we have spent out our 2023 funding for our utility bill assistance program,” said Christine Baginski, director of Energy and Environmental Services at CAP OC. “We have never seen this before, and we don’t anticipate the requests to decrease anytime soon.”
In 2020, CAP OC helped 6,345 households pay their utility bills. Last year, the number increased by nearly 20% to 7,582 households. Of those participating in utility assistance last year, 9,363 individuals were 60 and older, 1,413 were children five and under and 709 had disabilities.
“The pandemic relief programs are beginning to expire, but many people are still way behind in bill payments,” Baginski said. “Rather than paying off the bills, many families who struggle to keep up are digging an even deeper hole.”
That challenge brought Baginski to a recent Southern California Edison Community Forum, where more than 100 nonprofits and community groups, including the Climate Registry, Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach and the Native American Land Conservancy received a high-level overview of the state-mandated fixed charge proposal recently filed with the California Public Utilities Commission. Attendees, including CREER Comunidad y Familia, the Disabled Resources Center as well as Goodwill of Orange County were also provided with information on how families who are having a difficult time meeting payment deadlines can request assistance.
We understand that our customers are dealing with rising costs of all kinds, and we are working to keep customers’ bills as manageable as possible,” said Lisa Cagnolatti, SCE senior vice president of Customer Service."Lisa Cagnolatti, SCE Senior Vice President
“We understand that our customers are dealing with rising costs of all kinds, and we are working to keep customers’ bills as manageable as possible,” said Lisa Cagnolatti, SCE senior vice president of Customer Service. “Our analysis shows that an income-based fixed charge will benefit millions, particularly lower-income customers needing energy bill relief. It will also make it easier for more Californians to afford clean energy technologies.”
For immediate relief, SCE offers several money-saving tools and programs to help people manage their bills, including debt relief and bill discounts for qualifying customers, payment arrangements so customers can pay off their past-due balances over time, and other tools and programs that help customers save energy and manage their bills.
“It was incredibly helpful to have the opportunity to hear directly from SCE about how the utility is working to address rising costs and affordability for essential services,” said Baginski. “At CAP OC, we see firsthand how individuals, seniors and families are struggling to get by, and utility costs are often in the top bracket of bills that people have difficulty paying.”
To learn about bill assistance programs and resources, visit SCE.com/billhelp.