December 16, 2011 -- Help is available for as many as 60,000 low-income natural gas households in paying their winter heating bills following the Georgia Public Service Commission's (PUC) unanimous vote December 6 to approve the distribution of approximately $10 million to low-income senior natural gas customers and low-income customers.
The assistance will be distributed beginning with the December- January period as a onetime credit of up to $160 on customers' bills. Customers must be in Group 1 with the state's regulated provider, a natural gas company designated by the PUC to offer low-income households lower cost gas and to serve customers who cannot get service elsewhere. Group 1 customers of the regulated provider are those customers who have already been referred to the provider through the state's LIHEAP office.
The $10 million comes from the natural gas Universal Service Fund (USF) and only those customers in the Atlanta Gas Light Company distribution area are eligible. The release of the $10 million was timely because the state's initial allotment of LIHEAP funds, less than half what the program received last year, had run out by November 1, leaving many seniors without assistance.
According to news accounts, in Fulton County about 4,700 seniors, twice the amount than in 2010, asked for assistance with their heating bills, depleting $1.8 million in LIHEAP funds before the general public could even ask for help.
Since the inception of the USF the Commission has approved the disbursement of $64.9 million in assistance for low-income natural gas customers on the AGLC system. Additionally, the Commission has approved a total of $117.8 million in grants and refunds to all AGLC customers since 1998. The USF is a fund established under the Natural Gas Deregulation Act of 1997. The law authorizes the Commission to order disbursements from the USF to assist low-income consumers in times of emergency as determined by the Commission.
Source: GA PUC, local media