For low-income residents struggling to pay utility bills, help is available.
A program through Arizona Public Service allows families that fall under certain income guidelines to save up to 40 percent on electric bills.
Also, the county’s Community Action Program (CAP) has received $1.7 million in stimulus funds to weatherize homes countywide, making them more energy efficient.
Weatherization involves conducting an energy audit on the home to see where the most drastic inefficiencies occur, and solutions can include new appliances, roofs and windows.
Traditionally, the agency collates enough money from various grants to weatherize roughly 30 homes. However, the funding flood will allow it to weatherize 204 homes countywide. In Payson, 12 homes are now undergoing upgrades and more will follow. Income limits apply.
The program doubly helps low-income energy consumers save money. Not only is the initial bill reduced, but an APS energy support program, called E-3, offers greater discounts for less energy consumption.
For example, a low-income customer who uses 400 kilowatt-hours or less receives a 40 percent discount, while a person who uses anywhere from 401 to 800 kilowatt-hours receives a 26 percent discount.
Eligible customers meet federal poverty level guidelines, or a monthly income of $2,757 for a family of four. Enrollment for the discount program has historically been low because few people know about it, said Jerry Mendoza, an APS program manager. Roughly 60,000 people have signed on so far this year.
Low-income customers usually live in energy inefficient homes, and weatherization offers a direct impact, Mendoza added.
These families also typically spend a higher percentage of their income on energy for their homes.
For residents experiencing calamity, APS offers crisis bill assistance. Events qualifying as a “crisis” include a loss or reduction of income or a condition that endangers household safety.
APS is in the energy selling business, said Earlene Burris, APS supervisor for revenue recovery. Disconnecting power is the company’s last resort.
“Many times, we can work with (customers) when we hear from them,” she said.