Clark Public Utilities has launched a new assistance program for customers who suffered income or job loss as a result of the pandemic and have outstanding utility bills.
Those who meet income requirements during any three months since March 2020 may qualify for the Clark Public Utilities Pandemic Relief Program.
The program, funded by 2019 revenue surplus specifically allocated to pandemic relief by the utility commissioners, can provide a bill credit up to $750 and matching funds up to $500 if payments are made within 60 days of program approval, until March 15 or as long as funds are still available.
Since the program launched the first week of December, more than $3 million of the dedicated $5 million in funds has been distributed to eligible customer accounts. The program is only available as long as funds remain so it’s important to act now. Customers with a balance more than 30 days old are encouraged to check availability and apply through MyAccount on the utility’s website.
“When the pandemic began our utility stopped disconnections right away, ahead of the state moratorium that’s now ended, and made sure all customers had electric and water service regardless of payment history,” said Cameron Daline, Customer Experience Manager at Clark Public Utilities. “Behind the scenes though, a team of employees developed new programs and processes to help customers suffering in these unique circumstances. This new pandemic relief program is one of the results of that hard work.”
Some customers who participate in the pandemic relief program will qualify for other utility assistance programs, but more than 40 percent of the program’s participants are households that have never received utility assistance in the past, and may not be eligible for other programs.
“We sent letters, emails and recorded phone messages to customers who may be eligible for the program, and have translations of most materials available in Russian and Spanish,” Daline said. “But we are also counting on the community to encourage friends, family and neighbors who may have had work interruptions, health impacts or other pandemic-related struggles to reach out to the utility.”
Many customers who were not financially impacted by the pandemic have contributed generously to the utility’s donation-funded assistance program, Operation Warm Heart, or have registered to participate in the annual Race for Warmth. Every dollar of race registration goes directly to heating assistance and this year’s race will be held virtually the last weekend of January, visit RaceForWarmth.com for information, to sign up or to contribute to Operation Warm Heart. This and other programs will continue to provide assistance after the pandemic relief funds are exhausted.
“As a public, nonprofit utility, our employees get to focus fully on what’s best for the people we serve and how to keep the lights on at the lowest cost possible,” Daline said. “The goal is always the same: keep our employees and customers safe, keep services available and help those who in need. The pandemic relief program is just another way to meet those goals. We hope to help as many eligible customers as we can.”
For more information on utility assistance and to check eligibility for the pandemic relief program, visit ClarkPublicUtilities.com. Customers can also call 360-992-3000, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phone interpreter services are also available.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.