SAN FRANCISCO, June 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- With summer right around the corner and temperatures warming up, now is the time for Pacific Gas and Electric Company's low-income customers to sign up for a 20 percent discount on their entire energy bill. Thousands of income-qualified customers eligible for the California Alternate Rate for Energy Program (CARE) can receive a 20 percent reduction on their bill. On average, the program saves households $25 per month on their gas and electric bills. Since 1989, the CARE program has saved customers $1,336,336,887 in lowered energy bills. Currently, there are 929,243 eligible customers throughout PG&E's service area already enrolled in CARE, which represents 72% of the estimated 1,283,879 eligible customers. Despite the good news, statistics show there are still 354,636 households in northern and central California who are financially eligible for CARE, but not yet enrolled in the discount program. "Thousands of eligible customers who are qualified for this discount program are not aware of it," said Linda Fontes, CARE program supervisor for the utility. "To make sure that we reach all CARE qualified customers we have partnered with community-based organizations who perform outreach activities and provide assistance in low-income communities. As a result of these partnerships over 35,000 households were enrolled on the program in 2004." There are several ways for customers to enroll in CARE, such as calling PG&E's CARE toll free multilingual assistance line 1-866-PGE-CARE, visiting PG&E's CARE Web page at www.pge.com/care, or at dozens of self-service kiosks that have been placed at PG&E local offices throughout the utility's service area. Every year, the CPUC adjusts the maximum qualifying income levels to reflect changes in the federal poverty guidelines. These higher income levels mean that more customers can now qualify for the low-income program. The new income guidelines based on pre-tax annual income are as follows: Number of People Previous Income Levels New Income Levels Per Household (Effective June 1, 2004- (Effective June 1, May 31, 2005) 2005) 1 or 2 $23,400 $24,200 3 $27,500 $28,400 4 $33,100 $34,200 5 $38,700 $40,000 6 $44,300 $45,800 Add $5,800 for each additional household member above 6. Besides CARE, PG&E offers a variety of other programs to assist its low- income, disabled and senior citizen customers: REACH (Relief for Energy Assistance through Community Help) is a one-time energy-assistance program sponsored by PG&E and administered by the Salvation Army. REACH helps low-income customers who experience severe or unplanned hardships and are unable to pay for their energy needs. FERA (Family Electric Rate Assistance) is for large households of three or more persons with low to middle income. This program charges Tier 2 rates for Tier 3 usage (electric usage exceeding Tier 3 will be billed at Tiers 4 and 5). Energy Partners provides free weatherization measures such as caulking, weather stripping and attic insulation, and free energy-efficient appliances that could include refrigerators and air conditioners. Medical Baseline is offered to residential customers dependent on life- support equipment and/or with special heating or cooling needs due to certain medical conditions who may be eligible to receive additional quantities of energy at the lowest (baseline) price. Balanced Payment Plan offers monthly payments that can be evened out to allow customers to budget energy costs and eliminate big swings in monthly payments. The same amount will be paid every month. For information on PG&E's low-income programs, customers can call the utility's customer service line 800-PGE-5000 or log on to www.pge.com To learn more about CARE and to download an application, please visit the company's website at www.pge.com/care or call 1-866-PGE-CARE.
SOURCE Pacific Gas and Electric Company