Get a break on your electric bill – more people qualify than you might think.

by on December 8, 2009 · 3 comments

in Economy, Energy, Health

energybillIt’s the time of year when I really start to dread opening the gas and electric bill. It got cold yesterday, didn’t it? Sometimes, no matter how many layers you wear, you just gotta turn on some heat.

I’ve been reading (with interest) about SDG&E’s intent to change electric rates so people that use less electricity will pay a little more and people that use more will pay a little less. I know this has a lot of people up in arms because they think that those of us that conserve will be hit with rate hikes while the energy hogs will get a break, and to some extent it’s true, but they’re talking about 4-5%, and that’s not going make much difference to most folks. But there are other sides to this issue…

In these hard economic times many families are trying to pool their resources. Kids are living at home longer, younger families have moved back in with their parents, more people are taking in roommates or trying some kind of communal living arrangement. Whatever the situation, it seems there are more people living under one roof than there were in the recent past. One of the drawbacks to this is that folks who live in groups can pay higher electric rates than those that live alone.

gasbill1Most people don’t understand the tiered rate structure but in situations like these basically what happens is this: the more people that live at one address (or under one electric meter), the more likely they are to use more than the baseline allowance. And the higher you go over the baseline allowance the higher the rate is that you pay. Say, as a single person you use 200 kilowatt hours, which is well under the baseline, but a group of six adults may use 800 kilowatt hours, over the baseline allowance. That amount of electricity is less per person but way over the baseline allowance for a single residence so they pay a much higher rate for the electricity they use over the baseline allowance. This is a very simplified example and there are many factors that affect your rates.

But, there is a way that many people can save some money on their bill, as much as 20%. There are two programs, CARE and FERA, that provide assistance based on income, household size or participation in programs like WIC or MEDI-CAL. Keep in mind the recipient of any of the listed assistance programs can be anyone who lives in your house, but the person listed on the bill must be the one who applies. Below are the qualification guidelines, check them out, grab your electric bill (you’ll need your account number) and go apply online. It only takes a few minutes and you will be notified by email if you qualify. Do it soon so it counts on your next bill.

Program Participation Requirements

You may qualify if you are enrolled in one of the following public assistance programs:

  • Medicaid / Medi-Cal
  • Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
  • Healthy Families A & B
  • National School Lunch’s Free Lunch Program (NSL)
  • Food Stamps / SNAP
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Head Start Income Eligible (Tribal Only)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • TANF or Tribal TANF

Or, you may qualify if your total current income is no more than the income level shown:

Maximum Allowable Annual Income*

Number of Household



1 or 2 $30,500 Not Eligible
3 $35,800 $35,801 – $44,800
4 $43,200 $43,201 – $54,000
5 $50,600 $50,601 – $63,200
6 $58,000 $58,001 – $72,400
Each additional Member add $7,400 add $7,400 – $9,200

*Effective June 1, 2009 through May 31, 2010

Participation Rules

  • The SDG&E bill must be in your name and the address must be your primary residence.
  • You must not be claimed on another person’s income tax return other than your spouse.
  • Your household is receiving benefits from one of the public assistance programs listed or your total current household income (all income of all persons living in your home) – before deductions – is no more than the income level listed.
  • You must renew your application when requested.
  • You may be asked to verify your income.
  • You must notify SDG&E if you no longer qualify

Ready to apply? Go HERE!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

lane tobias December 8, 2009 at 12:18 pm

in addition there are programs that can help low-income families/individuals pay off a bill if facing disconnect on a ONE TIME basis. Eligibility is also dependent on income. They are called CUI and MAAC (both acronyms) and enrollment in one is dependent on your zip code. Call 211 to be referred.


Patty Jones December 8, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Thanks Lane, I knew you would have more information to offer.

Also, if you qualify for CARE or FERA you can apply for free home improvements through the Energy Team Program that provide services such as Attic Insulation, Door weather-stripping and caulking, Low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, Water heater blankets, Energy-efficient lighting and Select energy-efficient appliances.


Editor December 17, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Regulators OK SDG&E rate change

By Onell R. Soto, U-TRIBUNE
Thursday, December 17, 2009

State regulators approved Thursday a request from San Diego Gas & Electric to raise rates for residents who use a little power in order to lower them for people who use a lot, but didn’t give the utility as big an increase as it wanted.

Noting that the inflation rate this year is zero, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a 3 percent increase — the minimum increase allowed under a recent state law. SDG&E had proposed a 5 percent hike, the maximum allowable.

The rate changes won’t mean the utility will make more money. The electric company will use the extra money it collects from those who use little power to lower rates for big users.

The idea is to bring rates in line with what it costs. Rates have been frozen since 2001 for the energy misers, so all increases since then have gone to people who use more than 130 percent of the so-called baseline.

For rest go here:


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