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Seattle Cuts Utility Bills for Thousands of Low-Income Residents

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More than 18,000 Seattle utility customers are enrolled in a Utility Discount Program that cuts their Seattle City Light and Public Utilities payments in half but many more are eligible who have not signed up.

This fact led Mayor Ed Murray to launch a partnership with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission that now allows auto-enrollment of any individual or family who lives in a subsidized apartment with income requirements who also meets the City of Seattle’s Utility Discount Program (UDP) income eligibility. The City estimates that as many as 5,000 utility customers will benefit from this change.

“Housing costs are the largest expense a family faces in our growing city, and utility bills are no small part of that burden,” said Mayor Ed Murray when he announced the program. “We have one of the most progressive utility discounts in the country, but the administrative burden has been a barrier for too many. Today, we’re making it simple: if you qualify for subsidized housing or food assistance, we will make it easy to cut your utility bills in half.”

UDPThe new partnership is an agreement with the Housing Finance Commission, which will share the addresses of units that fall into the UDP eligibility range so that occupants can be auto-enrolled. The income of these renters is already verified annually. Residents’ names or other personal information will not be shared.

For lower-income customers who qualify, Seattle’s UDP offers 50 percent off Public Utilities bills and 60 percent off City Light bills. The average discount for utility customers enrolled in the UDP is more than $800 a year.

The income limits for the utility discounts is 70 percent of state median income: $31,260 a year for an individual and $60,108 for a household with four people. Units that include a federal utility credit are not eligible.

To ease the application process for other customers, those utility customers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—known as Basic Food in Washington state—are no longer required to provide income verification to the City. UDP staff now have the ability to verify the customer’s income through the Washington Connection database. An estimated 8,500 Basic Food recipients in Seattle are eligible to apply for utility discounts through this simplified approach.

The income limit for Basic Food is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which falls within UDP income requirements. Households comprising only people age 60+ who have no earned income have an easy time enrolling in the Basic Food Program. For eligibility information, click here.

You do not have to live in subsidized housing or receive nutrition assistance in order to qualify for the Utility Discount Program. Anyone who meets the eligibility requirements can apply. For more information and application forms, click here.

For additional short-term energy assistance, bill payment, and weatherization programs, click here (Seattle utility customers) or click here (Puget Sound Energy customers).

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