As of the end of August, the City of Seattle had enrolled 11,825 new households into the Utility Discount Program (UDP) in 2020, including 8,173 through the fast-track application process launched in March to more quickly support customers financially impacted by COVID-19.
UDP provides a 60% discount on Seattle City Light (SCL) electricity bills and a 50% discount on Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) water/sewer/garbage bills for income-eligible customers. Through August, there were 41,961 households enrolled in the City assistance program.
“Our communities have enough challenges to deal with during this pandemic. Worrying about whether the lights or water get turned off should not be among those concerns,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “And recognizing so many are at home working or remote learning, our dedicated City Light and Seattle Public Utilities crews are reporting to work, maintaining essential services and responding to unplanned disruptions as quickly as possible.”
In March 2020, as COVID-19 began to spread in our community, SCL and SPU created a UDP self-certification form for customers. This allows income-eligible residential customers to access heavily discounted utilities by simply signing a short form that attests to their household income, rather than having to provide income documentation. This will provide immediate utility bill relief for customers who are unemployed or underemployed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Additionally, to support customers during these unprecedented times, SCL and SPU will not disconnect service for non-payment, are waiving late and interest fees, and making every effort to proactively provide financial support, such as flexible payment plans and access to other assistance programs. And absent any changes during the 2021 budget process, the utilities are planning no increase to retail rates in 2021.
“We know that many people are dealing with the negative financial impacts of Covid-19 and our hearts go out to them,” said Mami Hara, General Manager of Seattle Public Utilities. “Expanding enrollment in the City’s Utility Discount Program and creating an easy application process was the right thing to do. We hope that customers who are experiencing financial stress will apply for the Utility Discount Program or contact us to arrange a flexible payment arrangement. Staying in touch with us helps customers stay on top of their bills and we work hard to make the process as easy as possible.”
“As humiliated and sad as I feel about losing my incredible job in an instant due to COVID-19 after being with a company in business for 34 years, I know I need to do everything possible to take care of my bills and other financial issues,” said one Utility customer. “When I called about my Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities bills, I was treated with utmost respect and empathy.”
“City Light’s goal is to provide safe, affordable, and reliable power to Seattle and surrounding communities; customers are our number one priority,” said Debra Smith, City Light General Manager. “With many people experiencing financial hardships due to the impact of social distancing and business closures, we’re here to help any customer – resident or business – struggling to pay their utility bill due to COVID-19.”
Customers don’t have to navigate the course on their own – the City will help assess their situation and work to determine the best path forward. While walk-in counters remain closed, SPU and SCL customer service representatives are available by phone at 206-684-3000 or online at https://myutilities.seattle.gov/.
Utility Discount Program (UDP)
Income-eligible customers can apply to the Utility Discount Program and receive a 60% discount on Seattle City Light electricity bills and a 50% discount on Seattle Public Utilities water/sewer/garbage by calling 206-684-0268.