PUD offers assistance to customers struggling to pay bills
Last updated 7/23/2020 at 5:36pm
If you’re struggling to pay your bill from Snohomish County PUD because it is much higher than expected, help is available.
Some Edmonds residents have been surprised by bills that are double or more the amount they are used to paying.
PUD spokesperson Cayle Thompson encourages those people facing financial hardships to contact the PUD’s customer service department.
“We are working daily to match customers with the program that best fits their needs,” Thompson said. “Our Community Support Plan can include any or a combination of a one-time bill credit, expanded bill discount qualifications, and flexible payment plans.”
Thompson added that the PUD has paused late payment fees and disconnections for nonpayment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of July 1, about 11,000 customers have been assisted through the Community Support Plan.
The PUD began estimating meter reads in mid-March due to safety concerns at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meter reading resumed for almost all customers on June 1 after the PUD obtained enough personal protection equipment and established new safety protocols.
“When we are unable to read a customer’s meter, we estimate usage based on previously known meter reads and balance any difference on the next bill after an official read,” Thompson said.
“When possible, we make every effort to estimate based on the same billing period one year prior.”
Customers are now receiving bills based on actual reads, which means the PUD can now account for any previous over- or underestimates.
“We have a good number of customers who will receive a bill credit because of an overestimate,” Thompson said.
“For customers who are receiving higher bills now, it is most likely a result of additional energy used over several months during the governor’s extended stay-at-home order, when many customers were working from home or had children attending school from home. … We understand the frustration and the hardship a higher bill can pose, and we are committed to working with any customer who requests assistance.”
The PUD offers a budget payment plan that takes the average of a customer’s bills and spreads it into 12 equal payments for a year. At the end of the year, any difference in actual usage over the previous 12 months is factored into the average bill for the next 12 months.
As of this month, the PUD also announced enhancements to its Income-Qualified Assistance Program that will make it more accessible to more customers.
The changes to the program include expanding eligibility and increasing the discount amounts for most of the customers in the program.
Under the new guidelines, the program is available to all customers at or below 200 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG), an increase from the former program’s threshold of 125% of FPG. Federal poverty levels are used to determine eligibility for certain programs and benefits, including savings on Marketplace health insurance, and Medicaid and CHIP coverage.
According to county statistics, that will allow the PUD to help about 20% of its customer base, roughly 50% more than under previous guidelines.
For more information on the Community Support Plan, Income-Qualified Assistance Program or PUD services: https://bit.ly/2ZL8zVD.