The representatives in Clark Public Utilities’ Community Care Department, better known as ComCare, are specially trained to help customers get assistance with their utility bills — regardless of how they heat their homes.
“We know that many of our customers are doing their best to get by, but still need some assistance from time to time,” said Clark Public Utilities Community Care Manager Chiharu Russell.
“In many households, one unexpected bill is all it takes to put their budget months behind,” she added. “Also, we’re just a couple months from the heating season, those winter utility bills put a lot of pressure on people living on fixed incomes.”
ComCare representatives specialize in helping qualifying customers sign up for Clark Public Utilities’ in-house assistance programs and screening them for other programs they may qualify for.
“Because the utility serves the entire county, other agencies recognized our department as an opportunity to reach the largest pool of potential candidates possible,” Russell said.
The utility offers several energy assistance programs.
The Guarantee of Service Plan helps customers eliminate built-up debt while making energy payments a more manageable part of their budgets. This 12-month program reduces electricity payments to a percentage of monthly household income. After successful completion of the program, any remaining account balance is forgiven.
The Senior Rate Credit program is available to households with at least one person 62 or older who meets the income eligibility limits. The program offers an account credit based on the previous January through April electric heating bills. Upon qualification, the credit will be applied directly to the customer’s account. Senior Citizen Rate Credits are applied to eligible accounts annually and new applications can be processed at any time during the year.
The federally funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, is administrated by the utility on behalf of Clark County. It offers heating assistance regardless of a home’s heat type.
LIHEAP is unique because it doesn’t follow the calendar year. Instead it runs from October to mid-summer. While the utility’s in-house heating assistance programs are intended to help customers with only their electric heat bills, LIHEAP is “fuel blind,” meaning Clark County residents can receive support no matter how they heat their homes.
Enrollment begins in October. Clark Public Utilities administers it on behalf of Clark County. Scheduling appointments for LIHEAP begin Sept. 19.
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In addition to helping customers pay home energy bills, LIHEAP can help with emergency furnace repair or replacement, energy conservation guidance and resources, and offer referrals to weatherization programs.
Operation Warm Heart is an income-based program that helps households pay energy bills during a financial crisis. The program is entirely donation supported.
Since 1985, Operation Warm Heart has provided nearly $3.6 million to 14,800 limited-income families in crisis to help pay their electric bills. These recipients can barely make ends meet, but may not qualify for other financial assistance.
Customers who are able can help the utility support those in need with a one-time or regular monthly contribution. Every dollar contributed to Operation Warm Heart goes directly to families in need and may be tax-deductible.
Knowing that English is not every customer’s first language, the utility offers interpretation services for a broad spectrum of languages.
To find out more about financial assistance for yourself or someone else, or to make a contribution to Operation Warm Heart, call our customer service department at 360-992-3000. Representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Information is also available at clarkpublicutilities.com.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to [email protected] or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.