Puget Sound Energy’s Carol Wallace works for the largest private utility—electricity and gas—in Washington State.

Amid a long career in energy, Wallace has directed the company’s Operations Performance and Gas Operations and is handling a crucial Customer Solutions division during COVID-19, which has just announced an additional $27.7 million in help.

“This has been a tough year,” Wallace says. “We are really thankful that we’ve been able to provide assistance to our customers during this pandemic and are proud to be continuing that work this year.”

PSE covers nearly 6,000 square miles in Northwest Washington state in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, Kitsap, Snohomish, Lewis, King, and Pierce Counties. Illustration courtesy Puget Sound Energy

“When the pandemic first hit, we committed that no customer should go without lights, heat or hot water,” says PSE President and CEO Mary Kipp. “We stand by that more than a year later with a level of assistance that is unprecedented and can make a significant difference for our customers.”

These very customers have gone through all of the seasons—winter, spring, summer, fall—during this crisis, needing heating and cooling, and in many cases needing to also work from home when offices closed due to social distancing.

Puget Sound Energy voluntarily suspended all disconnections on March 30, 2021. On April 17, 2020, Governor Inslee issued a proclamation prohibiting utilities from disconnecting customers for non-payment through May 4, 2020 and subsequent proclamations have extended that date through July 31, 2021. Utilities will also continue to waive reconnect fees, deposits for new customers and all late fees through Jan. 27, 2022.

Actually, according to Wallace, PSE began working on the Crisis Affected Customer Assistance Program (CACAP) in late March of 2020. The online application process was live on April 13, 2020.

“We continued to take applications through September 30, 2020,” she says, “and finished processing all applications and allocating assistance payments for those applications into early 2021, helping 15,840 customers with over $9 million in assistance.”

To qualify, customers’ net household monthly income must fall at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and have a past due balance. Customers can receive up to $2,500 per program year in additional bill assistance.

“When the pandemic first hit, we committed that no customer should go without lights, heat or hot water,” says PSE President and CEO Mary Kipp. Photo credit: Elisa Claassen

For example, a household size of one qualifies at $2,147, two at $2,903, three at $3,360 and four at $4,417. The utility has additional figures for larger-sized families.

If a customer has received bill assistance in the current or previous program years through PSE Help, CACAP, LIHEAP or Warm Home Fund from October, 2019 to present, they’re pre-qualified for the COVID-Bill Assistance if they have a past-due balance older than 60 days. The plan will pay off the account balance automatically.

“This program was primarily focused on helping those customers who had lost employment or had hours reduced as a result of the pandemic,” says Wallace. “For 2021, we have an additional $27.7 million in COVID-Bill Assistance to help customers with a past-due balance and who are income qualified to pay off their past due balances.”

Applications are being accepted through its online energy portal at pse.com/COVID or by calling the Customer Care Center at 888-225-5773.

Wallace wanted to maintain the privacy of customers benefitting from the program, but did share one comment left by someone on the plan: “Thank you so very much! Not just for the financial aid but for your peace of mind.”

For more information about the utility provider or this program, please visit www.pse.com.

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