In the interest of making Ashland more affordable, especially for older folks, the city, which is the utility provider, offers three energy assistance programs.
In a presentation at the City Council study session on Monday, city Administrative Services Manager Bryn Morrison, reviewed the program offerings, noting that ALIEAP (the Ashland Low-Income Energy Assistance Program) has for 36 winters offered sizable cuts on electric bills.
If your income is below 65 percent of Oregon’s median income, you can get a credit of up to $300. Credits of 50 percent go to seniors and disabled people for up to six months. Credits for others can go up to three months.
If you know of someone who needs the help but may not have heard of it or been able to act on it, call 541-552-2038 and it will get handled.
“These programs reach a lot of folks and help a lot of folks around town,” Travis Reeder, the city customer service supervisor for utility billing, said in an interview. “Electric use goes up in winter and most people get applications off the internet, to print and scan, then email them or bring them into City Hall (on the Plaza). Or it can be done by mail or bring it in.”
The city requires proof of income, he says, noting that if you get SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps), they require the same proof of income and you can just use that. Applications can be submitted after Oct. 1.
The city also offers a Senior & Disabled Utility Discount Program year-round for elders over 65, who are qualified by lower income. It’s been going on for 46 years and helps with the water, electric, sewer, transportation fee and storm water part of your bill.
It offers a 20 percent discount to those whose income is no more than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and 30 percent for those whose income is at or below that line. If you get ALIEP, you are already qualified. The city website says, “In the last five fiscal years, an average of $279 per year was given to assist customers through this program, with 806 customers receiving this benefit. This program is funded through the electric fund.”
Emergency HEAT Assistance started 26 years ago and is available to any resident, once a year, if you have received a disconnect notice. Assistance depends on available funding. To apply for either program, call 541-488-6004 or email email@example.com.
This discount is offered to Ashland residents whose income is up to 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline, have a maximum of $100 past due on their utility account, and is intended to assist customers once a year to avoid disconnection. This program is funded through the electric fund and through donations from the public. Each fiscal year $5,500 is budgeted for this program, with an average of 38 customers each year receiving it.
People regularly donate to these programs by sending a separate check to the utility department. Donations deliver a big boost, with the HEAT program getting $2,762 five years ago and a target for 2019 set for $4,000. The “Roundup” program lets the city round up your bill to the nearest dollar with the overage going to the poor. It’s netted $3,000 to $4,000 a year in the past five years.
Utility bills have gone up steadily over the past decade and Councilman Dennis Slattery notes this comes from “natural increases in power rates that come to the city and also fees get included. I can appreciate how people feel about that and some also think that what it pays for is important.”
ALIEAP has seen 352 to 456 applicants in the last five years and paid $82,000 to $99,000 to the needy. The Senior-Disabled had 136 to 185 applicants, paying out $36,000 to $58,000 a year. Combined, the city paid out $84,000 to $150,000, according to their stats.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.