Thursday, April 07, 2011

Expand Lifeline Water Rates for Low-Income Families

Perhaps you’ve read about the painful cuts that will be hitting California’s low-income families hard in the next fiscal year. These are tough economic times, and our social safety net provided by state government is falling through. But we can make a small, but important difference in the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), which serves Oakland and most of the East Bay.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) Board of Directors will decide on key budget matters at its meeting on April 12. One proposal includes closing critical gaps in the Customer Assistance Program (CAP). The CAP provides a 50% discount off the water bill for basic water use to households earning up to 165% of the federal poverty level: Households earning less than $24,000 for a household of 1-2, or $34,000 for a household of 4 are eligible.

This threshold is lower than California's electricity rate relief program, CARE, which covers households earning up to 214% of the federal poverty line, about 60% of the median income. The Customer Assistance Program also does not cover EBMUD's wastewater bill, which can be up to a third of charges that customers face.

Closing both of these gaps would only cost EBMUD an additional $450,000, a very small cost out of an annual operating budget of $450 million. Yet this would make a big difference for families earning a low income but are just out of range of our program – about 1% of a family’s annual income.

Please click here to write a personal message to the EBMUD Board of Directors urging the Board to close important gaps in the Customer Assistance Program to protect low-income households.

Andy Katz
Director, East Bay Municipal Utility District
Representing Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, and north Oakland