FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2023
SFPUC Launches Improved Discount Program for Customers With Low Incomes
Updated program increases discounts to 40% for eligible customers
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) announced today that it has launched an expanded Customer Assistance Program to provide additional help to low-income customers and those struggling to pay their bills on time.
Among the improvements, the SFPUC has:
- increased the discount on water and sewer bills to 40% for customers with very low incomes,
- exempted customers who are eligible for the Customer Assistance Program from shutoffs or liens for late payment of bills, and
- ended late fees for residential customers.
“We know that some people are struggling financially right now as we recover from the pandemic,” SFPUC General Manager Dennis Herrera said. “Water and sewer services are the definition of essential. Ensuring that all of our communities have access to those services is at the heart of what we do as a public agency. The SFPUC has a proven track record as a leader in customer affordability. These updates demonstrate our commitment to providing help to those who need it the most. That’s part of what it means to be a utility of the future.”
SFPUC customers can check their eligibility and apply online in a few simple steps at www.sfpuc.org/CAPWater. Information and applications are available in eight languages.
The updated program expands on the SFPUC’s longstanding 25% discount program for water and sewer bills. It creates a two-tier discount model that provides 40% off water and sewer bills for households with incomes equal to or below 30% of the Area Median Income and 25% off for households between 31% and 50% of the Area Median Income. For example, the 40% discount would apply to a household of four making up to $43,250 a year. The 25% discount would apply to a household of four making up to $72,050 a year.
The upgrades to the Customer Assistance Program, also known as CAP, took effect on Friday, September 8, 2023. They were approved by SFPUC Commissioners earlier this year. The Commission has also given the SFPUC the authority to establish a new shutoff and lien exception program for customers with incomes between 50% and 80% of Area Median Income who have extenuating circumstances, like a job loss or personal medical situation. That program is in development.
Working to make utility services more affordable for communities that have faced systemic barriers is central to the SFPUC’s mission and aligns with the agency’s Racial Equity Resolution passed in July 2020. Like utilities across the country, the SFPUC is dealing with affordability challenges. At the same time, major infrastructure investments are needed to protect the environment and ensure reliable water and sewer services.
For the SFPUC, it is necessary to continue upgrading aging systems to prevent breaks, meet regulatory requirements, improve seismic safety, and adapt to droughts and storms as the climate changes. It’s also important to recognize that since the pandemic began, the number of customer accounts in debt has risen almost 353%. Utility debt is disproportionately concentrated in parts of the city with larger populations of Black, Indigenous, and communities of color; people with low incomes; and people who speak languages other than English.
In addition to Customer Assistance Program upgrades, the SFPUC has successfully advocated for the extension of the state’s California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program, which provides relief for utility debt accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year the SFPUC secured $16.6 million for customers who had water and sewer utility debt accrued from March 2020-June 2021. An extended program expanded the eligible dates for when debt was accrued through the end of 2022 and will provide eligible SFPUC customers with more bill relief. More information will be available in the coming months.
Throughout the pandemic the SFPUC has taken action to support customers who lost income as a result of COVID-19. The agency launched emergency assistance programs that provided discounts to more than 6,000 residential, small business, and nonprofit customers. The agency also suspended water and power shutoffs due to late payments, postponed liens and collections, waived late fees, and provided rental payment deferments for tenants of our facilities.
About the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is a department of the City and County of San Francisco. It delivers drinking water to 2.7 million people in the Bay Area, collects and treats wastewater for the City and County of San Francisco, and meets over 70 percent of the electricity demand in San Francisco. Our mission is to provide our customers with high-quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that values environmental and community interests and sustains the resources entrusted to our care. Learn more at www.sfpuc.org.