October 1, 2021

With Washington State’s ban on disconnecting utilities set to lift Thurs., Sept. 30, many families in Skagit County are finding help through Community Action of Skagit County’s Energy & Utility Assistance Program.

“Our neighbors are working hard to keep their families afloat,” said Misty Velasquez, Energy & Utility Manager at Community Action. She described one customer, a single mom with three kids in Sedro Woolley, who was behind on bills because of being out of work due to COVID. “They were in arrears of $1,350.00 on her electric bill, which we helped pay.” Community Action also was able to add $948.00 credit on her account, in addition to paying the balance owed.

Energy and utility help gives households some peace of mind.

“This allowed this super-stressed out mom to pay other bills she was behind on, instead of trying to cover her electric bill for the next few months,” Velasquez said. “She will be able to access services again during the new season which will give her more help towards her electric bill for future winter months.”

Energy and heating assistance is available for those who income qualify to pay for past bills owed, and for some future utility bills. Beginning in October, Community Action can also help pay arrears for water and sewer bills.

“Income guidelines have gone up, and we can help more people than ever,” said Velasquez. “In one of our programs, a household of four can earn as much as $5,483 per month.” For income guidelines and instructions on making appointments via phone and website, go to: www.communityactionskagit.org/energy-assistance/ , or call 360-428-1011. Assistance is available in English and Spanish.

Energy/Heating: Community Action can pay for bills with Cascade Natural Gas, Puget Sound Energy, firewood, heating oil, propane, and more. Awards range from $75 to $2,500, based on income and usage. “Customers do not have to be behind in paying their bills,” Velasquez said. “Awards can be applied as a credit for future bills.” With five local, state and federal programs, Community Action screens customers for any and all programs they may qualify for.

Community Action’s energy and heating phone lines open on October 1 to make appointments for seniors aged 60+ (and multigenerational households with a senior) for November appointments. Following senior scheduling, phone lines open on the first Wednesday of the month, to make appointments for the following month. On November 3, scheduling begins for any client of any age for energy and heating appointments in December. The phone line is 360-428-1011. Assistance is available in English and Spanish.

In the last year, Community Action paid out over $2 million, helping to keep local fuel vendors and utility companies in business, while keeping the lights and heat on for 1,700 households. Velasquez anticipates that number to be $2.5+ million in the next year. “We help seniors, veterans, families, workers and people in every community in Skagit County,” Velasquez said.

Water/Sewer: Beginning Oct. 1, utility customers can also get help from Community Action in paying for water and sewer bills, through the new federal Low Income Household Water Assistance Program. Qualifications for assistance include anyone in Skagit County who have a balance owing on a water and/or sewer bill. Customers can call for water and sewer assistance any time during the month, 360-428-1011.

According to the state Utilities Commission, after the shut off moratorium lifts on Sept. 30, energy utilities regulated by the state utilities commission must offer long-term payment plans up to 18 months and cannot charge late or reconnection fees until March 29, 2022.

The Community Action Energy & Utility team has moved from the Community Action office in Mount Vernon to 160 Cascade Place Suite 110, Burlington. The Energy & Utility Program does not take drop-ins, rather all visits are by appointment by phone and online. Mailing address remains 330 Pacific Place, Mount Vernon WA 98273. For more information: www.communityactionskagit.org

Additional Program Information:

Customers who contact Community Action will be screened for qualifications for all available programs, listed in more detail below. Go to: www.communityactionskagit.org/energy-assistance/

Regular LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Program):

  • $100=$1,000 based on income and usage
  • Do not have to be behind, can be applied as credit for future

PSE Help program

  • $100=$1,000 based on income and usage
  • Do not have to be behind, can be applied as credit for future

Cascade Natural Gas WEAF (Washington Energy Assistance Fund)

  • $75-$500 based on income and usage
  • Do not have to be behind, can be applied as credit for future

Emergency Funds available through Community Action:

  • Salvation Army Warm Home: People who are in disconnect status: Up to $600 for PSE
  • CNG Winter Help: People who are in disconnect status: Up to $200
  • LIHEAP ARP (American Rescue Plan): Any past due balance up to $2500 for PSE AND CNG.

TRAP and ERAP has ability to pay ANY utility in all of Skagit County if they are BEHIND.

  • Also includes internet