May 29, 2012 – Seattle City Light is trying to expand enrollment in its low income discount program after finding that just 20 percent of those eligible for the program use it, in part because people are unaware it exists, and in part because the application process has long been cumbersome and time-consuming.
The municipal utility provides several assistance programs, including discounts for low-income, senior and disabled customers, plus an emergency program. According to LIHEAP leveraging records, during 2010 it spent $7 million on the low-income electric discount and helped 14,178 households. Qualifying customers can save 60 percent on electricity bills and 50 percent on water, sewer and garbage bills.
The city's Human Services Department (HSD) has implemented new procedures to streamline the enrollment process. Under the old "caseworker" version of the program, applicants would have to fill out a mostly blank application on their own and deal with a specific employee; if that person didn't happen to be around when an applicant called, they'd have to leave a message and wait, resulting in delays for help that lasted, on average, 71 days.
Under the new "call center" system, the person who answers the phone fills out the application for the applicant and sends it to them in the mail; if the applicant has any questions, they can talk to anyone at the program. The new system, HSD employees said, has reduced the time to get benefits to 48 days.
Additionally, the application form has been dramatically simplified.
Source: Seattle newspapers