Senior Low Income Credit Increased to $39.50
Over the course of a series of meetings in September and October, Jefferson County PUD’s Board of Commissioners approved resolutions to clarify the PUD’s low-income policies and increase the amount of monthly support offered to low-income seniors.
Resolution 2019-24 increased the PUD’s Senior Low-Income bill credit from $20 to $39.50 per month. The credit is available to customers aged 62 or older with an annual household income of $30,000 or less and is applied to their electric bill each month.
For customers who are not aged 62 or older, the PUD has a Standard Low-Income bill credit. All account holders, regardless of age, who earn up to 150% of the federal poverty rate are eligible for the Standard Low-Income credit, which is also $39.50 per month.
“For an individual, 150% of the federal poverty rate is equal to an income of $18,735 a year,” said PUD Customer Service Manager Jean Hall. “For a family of four it’s $38,625.”
Hall added that customers who qualify for either the Standard or Senior Low-Income bill credit also qualify for a $10 credit on their water bill and 30% off of the sewer rate, should they receive those services from the PUD.
In addition to increasing the senior credit, the PUD Commissioners approved Resolution 2019-26 establishing the term length of the low-income credit awards and allowing customers who have been approved for either LIHEAP (Low Income Heating Assistance Program) or Rainy Day funds by OlyCAP to be automatically eligible for the PUD’s Standard Low-Income program.
According to Hall, Jefferson County PUD has expanded and refined its low-income program significantly during the last few years. Washington State law RCW 74.38.070 allows PUDS to provide services at reduced rates for senior low-income citizen or other low-income citizen as defined by by the governing body.
In 2018, the Board of Commissioners moved the eligibility for the Standard Low-Income program from 125% of the federal poverty rate to 150%. The Commissioners also approved increasing the Low-Income Program budget from $200,000 at the start of 2018 to $350,000 later that year, after enrollment increased dramatically. The budgets for years 2019 and 2020 were set at $400,000. Hall said there are currently 503 customers enrolled in the PUD’s Standard Low-Income Program, and 79 in the Senior Program.
Larry Dennison is the chair of both the PUD’s Citizen Advisory Board (CAB) and its Low-Income Subcommittee. He explained that the subcommittee reviews the PUD’s low-income programs and policies and recommends improvements to the PUD’s commissioners when applicable. It was the CAB’s recommendation that the PUD increase both the eligibility percentage for the federal poverty rate the amount of the Senior Low-Income Credit.
The Citizen Advisory Board also advocated for in-house processing of low-income applications, and in early September the PUD promoted Customer Service Representative Maureen Whippy to Customer Service Program Specialist, tasking her with the processing of the both Senior and Standard Low-Income applications, as well as coordinating with outside support agencies like OlyCAP.
Whippy said that customers who apply for Low-Income Program support will typically see the credits show up on their bill the following month. She noted that customers who receive the Standard Low-Income Program credit will need to re-apply after one year. Customers who receive the Senior Low-Income credit will need to re-apply after two years, she explained.
“Seniors don’t typically see as much fluctuation in income,” she said.
To apply for either the PUD’s Standard or Senior Low-Income programs, Whippy said customers need to submit a completed Low-Income Program Application Packet, along with all required documents, to the PUD Customer Service Office at 210 Four Corners Rd. Customers can obtain a printed copy of the packet at the office or download it online at the PUD’s website: jeffpud.org/assistance.
Customers who have questions about the program can call Whippy at (360) 385-8357 Monday through Friday, between 9am and 4:30pm.