"CARE" is the acronym for California Alternate Rates for Energy program for low income households. It's mandated (more or less) by the California Public Utilities Commission. There are two ways to qualify for these discounted rates: one is based on already receiving benefits from any of several public assistance programs, and the other is based on household income limits. CONTINUE READING for more information, even if you're not in need of low-income energy assistance yourself — you may have friends, neighbors or relatives who need the discounts and may not be aware of them.
At the CPUC CARE page, these are the listed corporate "Phone Numbers and Websites for Energy Assistance Programs" which is a bit odd considering the phone numbers are stated as being for "Emergency Payment", but that may be better than no phone number at all:
Utility Emergency Payment Website
PG&E 866-743-2273 CARE
Edison 866-675-6623 CARE (note the 404 error message ...hmmmm, wonder why....)
SDG&E 800-411-7343 CARE
SoCalGas 800-427-2200 CARE
Alpine Nat'l Gas 209-772-3006
Bear Valley Elect 800-999-4033
Sierra Pacific 800-782-2498
Southwest Gas 877-860-6020 Special Programs (ibid.)
West Coast Gas 916-364-4100
So Cal Gas as an example
The maximum allowable income differs a little between the California Public Utilities Commission "CARE" eligibility&info page and So Cal Gas's page, and the stated discount amount varies a lot (CPUC says, "30-35 percent discount on...electric and natural gas bills; So Cal Gas says, "20 percent"), but both look to be about $8,500 less stringent than in 2013, when the maximums were still rolled back to approximate 2007 levels.
At SoCalGas, the baseline is that "effective January 1, 2014 to May 31, 2014" a one-person or two-person household total income (before deductions) of $31,020 or less is said to qualify. The CPUC's page shows slightly less stringent limits and says they are effective "through May 31, 2015", so it's possible the limits will loosen a bit more at the end of this month...even that the actual percent of discount may increase... (well, anything's possible, in theory).
SoCalGas's page says
For each additional household member, add $8,040...[of] current household income from all sources before deductions...Total household income is all revenues, from all household members, from whatever sources derived, including but not limited to: wages, salaries, interest, dividends, spousal and child support payments; public assistance payments, Social Security and pensions, rental income, income from self-employment, and all employment-related non-cash income.and has a link for submitting applications applications online or printing them out for relatives or friends or neighbors who aren't internetted. The ten public assistance programs SoCalGas recognizes as qualifiers are listed at that page:
If you or another person in your household receives benefits from any of these programs:as well as their income-based qualifications "effective January 1, 2014 thru May 31, 2014::
Medi-Cal / Medicaid
Healthy Families Categories A & B
Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
CalWORKs (TANF) or Tribal TANF
Head Start Income Eligible - Tribal Only
Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance (BIA GA)
CalFresh / SNAP (Food Stamps)
National School Lunch's Free Lunch Program (NSL)
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Total income for all persons in your household meets the following income guidelines:The CPUC page says:
Number of persons
in household Total yearly household income* no more than
For each additional person in your household add $8,040.
Customers may also be eligible for CARE if they are enrolled in public assistance programs such aswhich include the CalWORKS and CalFresh programs listed at SoCalGas.
...Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC),
...Healthy Families A & B,
...National School Lunch’s Free Lunch Program (NSL),
...Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP),
...Head Start Income Eligible (Tribal Only),
...Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
...Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
...Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Tribal TANF
SoCalGas's page includes phone numbers for information in languages other than English. The CONDITIONS FOR PARTICIPATION stated in applications enclosed with papermailed phone bills are:
1. The gas bill must be in your name and the address must be your primary address...Possibly the application and info was only mailed now based on income tax returns being "in" that can be used to verifiy eligibility. Or possibly the CPUC's slightly less stringent maximum income limits are hoped to go unnoticed by those just a tad above qualifying at the moment.
2. You must not be claimed as a dependent on another person's income tax return other than your spouse...
3. You must recertify your application when requested...
4. You must notify SoCalGas within 30 days if you no longer quality.
5. You may be asked to verify your eligibility for CARE...
What happens to these income maximums and percentage rates after May 31?
Check your energy supplier's webpage to find out... It's hopeful to see the CPUC's page stating that their slightly less stringent rates are "effective through May 31, 2015."