Jamie Contreras and Jackie Morales love helping customers keep their heat on. It’s an especially important job this time of year.
Contreras and Morales are Snohomish County PUD customer service representatives, and they play a special role in the lives of our customers throughout the winter. Starting in November, they will do most of their work not at the PUD, but rather at the Snohomish County Human Services Department in downtown Everett as part of the Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The program helps connect customers struggling to pay high winter bills with grant funding up to $1,000. Contreras and Morales aid customers who have had their power shut off or are about to. They go over each customer’s account, discussing account balances, energy usage and the best ways to conserve energy.
Working at the county offices helps Contreras and Morales connect directly with customers. They can discuss payment options, load pledges on their account for Energy Assistance grants and arrange for customers to get their lights back on.
Over the years, they’ve received a lot of hugs from grateful customers.
“Customers are so thankful that they have a resource like this that can help them take care of their family,” Contreras said.
Whether they heat with electricity, natural gas, propane, oil or wood, customers who meet eligibility requirements can apply for grants ranging from $25 to $1,000. This year’s program begins Nov. 18.
With temperatures plunging into the 20s, this past week was a great example of why the Energy Assistance program is so important. Cold weather affects the way we live our lives. We stay inside more, keep the lights on longer and turn the heat up higher. That results in higher bills.
The larger the difference between the temperature outside and the temperature inside, the harder your heating system must work and the more energy it will consume. This is especially true for homes that don’t have enough insulation, have single-paned windows and/or poor caulking around the windows and doors.
Heating has the most impact to customers’ energy usage, and since furnaces and other heating sources often work quietly in the background, those higher bills can often be a surprise for folks.
Along with helping connect customers with grant funds, the PUD offers a number of its own programs to help customers with those higher-than-normal bills through:
Customer grants: Project PRIDE offers grants up to $125 for customers struggling to pay their PUD bill and facing disconnection. It is administered by St. Vincent de Paul and is funded by voluntary contributions made by PUD customers.
Free weatherization: This program offers free weatherization for low-income renters in partnership with Snohomish County, including caulking, weather-stripping and various insulation work, to those who qualify based on their income. For details reach out directly to Snohomish County at www.snohomishcountywa.gov.
Discounted rates: The PUD recently refreshed its approach to discounting its current rate. PUD customers at or below 125% federal poverty levels can receive up to 60% off their monthly bill if they qualify. Additionally, there are multiple paths for streamlined enrollment effective Nov. 1.
Need help with high bills or know someone who does this winter season? Call Snohomish PUD Customer Service at 425-783-1000 or check out www.snopud.com/discounts for more information.