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Sec. 5. Title 46, chapter 6, Arizona Revised Statutes

ARTICLE 3. UTILITY REPAIR AND DEPOSIT ASSISTANCE

46-731 . Utility assistance fund; purposes; administration; nonreversion; reimbursement for administrative costs; definitions

A. A utility assistance fund is established in the state treasury to provide eligible recipients with assistance in making utility deposits and owner repairs or replacement of utility related appliances or systems. The department shall administer the fund. Monies in the utility assistance fund shall not exceed one million dollars. Any amount in excess of one million dollars shall be deposited in the state general fund. Eligible recipients are individuals who are in crisis situations requiring utility repair, deposit assistance or replacement of utility appliances or systems, who have a household income at or below one hundred twenty-five per cent of the poverty level or who are sixty years of age or older or handicapped and who have a household income at or below one hundred fifty per cent of the poverty level. The need for replacement of utility related appliances or systems shall be related to a documented crisis situation. Replacement of utility related appliances is limited to situations in which repair costs exceed replacement cost or an appliance is found to be inoperable with repairs. For the purposes of this subsection, the poverty level is as determined by the United States office of management and budget and reported in the federal register.

B. A deposit, including any interest on the deposit, that is made by a subscriber with a utility to secure payment or any amount that is paid in advance for utility services to be furnished, less any lawful deductions or any amount held by a utility that the utility has been ordered to refund by a court or administrative agency, and that remains unclaimed by the subscriber for more than two years after the termination of the services for which the deposit or advance payment was made, or for more than two years after the refund becomes payable and distribution occurs pursuant to the final order of the court or administrative agency that has jurisdiction to establish the terms and conditions of the refund, is presumed abandoned and shall be transmitted annually to the department of revenue for deposit in the utility assistance fund. Any utility that delivers these refund payments to the department of revenue in good faith is relieved of all liability to the extent of any refund payment delivered for any claim then existing or that thereafter may arise or be made in respect to the property. This subsection does not apply to any refund subject to section 44-313 or to any refund that the court or agency order provides will be held by a person other than the utility.

C. Beginning July 1, 1992, the director shall provide the use of the utility assistance fund monies to designated community action or other agencies currently providing energy assistance that in the judgment of the director offer assistance services to individuals who are eligible under subsection A of this section to receive assistance under this article. The utility assistance fund monies shall be coordinated with all other state and federal energy assistance programs. An amount of not more than ten per cent of the fund monies may be designated for sewer and water system repairs. The director shall not disburse an amount of more than thirty-five per cent of all monies to the agencies during any quarter.

D. The agencies selected by the director shall disburse monies for payment of utility deposits by checks payable to the utility. These payments may be made in a batch process. The agencies selected by the director shall disburse monies for the payment of owner utility repairs and replacements by checks payable to the repairer or replacement entity on behalf of the client on satisfactory completion of the work. The client shall indicate in writing that the repairs and replacements have been completed before payment is made.

E. The department of revenue shall annually report to the department of economic security the amounts the utility assistance fund receives from each utility that requires a fee to be deposited in order to receive its services. The department of economic security shall report these amounts to the agencies.

F. Refunds by the utilities for deposits made by the utility assistance fund shall be transmitted to the department of revenue for deposit in the fund. These refunds are subject to the established tariffs, rules and procedures of the utilities.

G. The utilities, the department and the designated community action or other agencies currently providing energy assistance shall inform the public of the utility assistance fund.

H. Except as provided in subsection A of this section, monies in the utility assistance fund do not revert to the state general fund.

I. An amount of not more than two per cent of the utility assistance fund monies may be used by the department and an amount of not more than eight per cent of the fund monies may be used by the agencies to reimburse them for their administrative costs in providing services under this article.

J. For the purposes of this section:

1. "Crisis situations" includes a substantial loss or reduction of income, unexpected emergency expenses, a health related emergency or no income in the household. The director may adopt rules that set forth other crisis situations.

2. "Utility" means a person that, for public use, transmits, sells, delivers or furnishes electricity, water, gas, sewer or telecommunication services.

46-732 . Eligibility; limits

Individuals who are eligible for assistance under this article may apply for assistance with deposits, repairs and replacements but may not apply for assistance more than once during a fiscal year. Assistance provided to an individual in a fiscal year may not exceed six hundred dollars. An individual who uses a deposit received from the fund to pay an outstanding utility bill without making a payment arrangement with the utility is not eligible to receive further assistance under this article.

Sec. 7. Delayed effective date

This act is effective from and after June 30, 1990.