Reduce your High Winter Lighting and Heat Bills

Man in despair over bills

Did you know that it may be possible to reduce your high winter heating bills and summer water bills? The City of Seattle's Utility Discount Program helps low-income residents stay current on utility payments by offering a discount of about 60 percent on Seattle City Light bills and 50 percent on Seattle Public Utilities bills. (Not a Seattle resident? Read about the federally-funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in the box below.)

Managed by the Seattle Human Services Department in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities and City Light, the Utility Discount Program originated through legislation enacted more than 30 years ago. Since the late 1970s, thousands of qualifying low-income families, seniors and adults with disabilities have saved on the cost of their utilities. For an average household, annual savings average $800.

Currently, 16,700 Seattle households take advantage of this discount. The Human Services Department has a goal of increasing that number to 28,000.

Many low-wage and fixed-income households who are faced with increasing costs for housing, food and fuel can receive discounted utility costs to help make ends meet. In each of the past five years, more than 14,000 utility customers benefited from the discounted rates. Many are residents age 65 and older, and adults with disabilities, trying to survive on Social Security benefits.

Households must meet income guidelines, based on total household size. As one example, a household of three with total household income of less than $4,120 per month may be eligible for the rate discount.

Only homeowners and renters who have Seattle City Light and/or Seattle Public Utilities bills in their own name and do not receive a Section 8 housing voucher or live in subsidized housing may apply. Qualifying low-income tenants whose landlords pay all utilities may be eligible for utility financial help. The discount does not apply to residences used for business purposes or to residents of subsidized housing.

To apply for the Utility Discount Program, complete the application form (available online in either Word or PDF), an Employment Security Department self-request for records form and, if applicable, a landlord/tenant release form. Alternatively, you can call 206-684-0268 or e-mail udp@seattle.gov to request application materials by mail.

After you apply, please be patient—read Frequently Asked Questions (& Answers) to learn what you should expect. But if you are eligible, the sooner you apply, the sooner you will receive the benefit of lower utility rates.

Participating households need to recertify on a regular basis—every three years if the head of household is age 65 or older (every two years for younger heads of household who are more likely to be working).

Finally, consider whether you may be eligible for free HomeWise weatherization services provided by the City of Seattle's Office of Housing. Low- and moderate-income homeowners and renters (single family and apartment housing) may qualify for attic, wall, duct and/or crawlspace insulation; bathroom and/or kitchen venting; pipe wrapping; air sealing; weather-stripping; window caulking; furnace tune-up, repair, or replacement; upgrades; and other services that can save money on future utility bills. Homeowners may qualify for low-interest home repair loans. For more information, call 206-684-0244.

What if I'm Already Behind on Payments?!

If you face living without heat, water, sewer, or garbage service, your health may be at risk. A variety of programs may be able to help. In all cases, households must meet income guidelines and the bill must be in the applicant's name:

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): LIHEAP is a federally funded program to help eligible low-income homeowners and renters meet their home heating and/or cooling needs. You do not need a shut off notice to get assistance. For more information, call 1-800-348-7144 or visit the Centerstone (Seattle), Multi-Service Center (south of Seattle), or Hopelink (north and east King County) websites.

Electric Payment Assistance Program (EPAP): Seattle City Light customers who use LIHEAP and continue to face disconnection, or for whom LIHEAP is unavailable, may qualify for additional assistance through Seattle City Light. Formerly known as Emergency Low Income Assistance (ELIA). For more information, call 206-684-3688 or e-mail SCL_InfoElia@seattle.gov.

Project Share: Seattle City Light customers who have participated in LIHEAP and EPAP and continue to face disconnection may qualify for Project Share assistance (funds donated by City Light customers). Customers must make payment arrangements with and be referred by Seattle City Light. For more information, call 206-684-3000.

Emergency Assistance Program: Seattle Public Utilities customers in single-family households who are past due on their account and at risk of having their water, sewer, and solid waste service shut off may be eligible for assistance. For more information, call 206-684-5800.

PSE HELP: In addition Puget Sound Energy customers may qualify for additional bill-payment assistance, administered by Centerstone, Multi-Service Center, and Hopelink (see above).