Low-Income Energy Assistance Programs

High energy costs have forced many families to choose between paying their utility bills, buying groceries and paying their rent or mortgage payments. If you are finding yourself unable to pay your energy bills, there are a number of places you can turn to for help. The first thing you should do is contact the service provider in your area to find out about any rate assistance programs they offer to their customers. If you are not aware of the service provider in your area, you can find your service company by visiting: http://www.csd.ca.gov/Services/FindServicesinYourArea.aspx.

Your energy company will be able to help enroll you in one of the many programs offered to California’s lowincome families. To get you familiar with the rate assistance programs you may qualify for, read on:

California Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

To help you meet your home energy needs, a grant from the federal government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) offers low-income California households several kinds of services:

The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides onetime financial assistance to help you with your energy costs.

The Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP) provides assistance to low-income households that are in a crisis situation. If you receive a service termination or disconnect notice by a utility company, or if you are facing a life threatening emergency in your household caused by a faulty appliance, ECIP may be able to help with your bills.

LIHEAP Weatherization (WAP) The purpose of WAP is to make your home more energy efficient by providing free upgrades to low-income households. Common types of weatherization include: sealing holes and cracks around windows, doors and pipes, fixing or replacing windows, putting an insulated blanket around your water heater, and making sure your home’s heating and conditioning systems work properly. According to the Department of Community Services and Development, upgrading your home to be more energy efficient could save your family up to 35% in energy costs, saving you up to $400 dollars a year!

Due to limited funding for the program applicants are prioritized based on greatest need, income and household with vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, disabled persons, and households with young children.

In order to qualify for California LIHEAP, you must be a resident of California, and you must have an annual income (before taxes) that is below the following amounts:

Household SizeMaximum Income Level
(Per Year)

For information on how to apply for LIHEAP the following toll free number may be helpful 866-674-6327. Options are available in English and Spanish.

California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) Program

The CARE program provides a monthly discount on energy bills for qualified households. The application process is done through your utility company. Qualifications are based on the number of persons living in your home and your total annual household income. Low-income customers who enroll in the CARE program will receive a 20 percent discount on their energy bills. To get more information about how to enroll in CARE, or to request an application, contact your utility company. The chart below shows the income qualifications for the CARE Program:

Household SizeMaximum Income Level
(Per Year)
Each Additional PersonAdd $7,920

Low-Income Energy Efficiency Program (LIFE)

The LIFE program provides free weatherization services to low-income households who meet the CARE eligibility guidelines. Services provided include: energy efficient refrigerators, energy efficient furnaces, caulking, water heater blankets and insulation repairs. Contact your service provider for more information.

Families and individuals may be automatically eligible for the programs above if they are enrolled in public assistance programs like Medicaid/ Medical, Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), Healthy Families A & B, National School Lunch’s Free Lunch Program, Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Utility Shareholder-funded programs

Some utility companies offer their own emergency payment assistance programs to their customers, which can provide assistance with the cost of heating and cooling your home.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)

  • Relief for Energy Assistance through Community Help (REACH) program is for low income customers who experience uncontrollable or unplanned hardships and are unable to pay their energy needs. REACH is a one-time energy assistance service of up to $200 credit amount based on the unpaid past-due balance. Look at the chart below to see if you qualify, then Household Size Maximum Income Level (Per Year) 1 $22,340 2 $30,260 3 $38,180 4 $46,100 5 $54,020 6 $61,940 7 $69,860 8 $77,780 Each Additional Person Add $7,920 call The Salvation Army who runs the program at 1-800-933-9677. They will give you a phone number for your local The Salvation Army office where you can apply for the program. They have both English and Spanish speakers to help you.
  • Household SizeMaximum Income Level
    (Per Year)
    1 or 2$30,500
    Each Additional
    Add $7,400
  • Balanced Payment Plan Program (BPPP) PG&E will allow you to pay the same amount every month for 4 months by averaging your energy costs for the past 12 months. Every four months, PG&E’s system automatically checks your usage to average a new amount for you. Contact PG&E for more information about this program at 1-800-743-5000. English and Spanish speaking operators are available to help you.
  • Edison

  • Level Pay Plan Allows you to budget your energy costs into equal monthly payments by spreading the high summer or winter bills over an entire year. The Level Pay Plan does not reduce the amount of your bill — you’re still responsible for paying the full cost of the energy you use, but you can split the cost into equal payments throughout the year.
  • Energy Savings Assistance Program Provides eligible customers with free energy efficient appliances, as well as free installation, and weatherization services. See the income qualifications chart below,
    Household SizeMaximum Income
    (Per Year)
    Additional PersonAdd $7,920

    and call Edison for more information about these programs. 1-800-950-2356, options in English and Spanish are available.

It is important to contact your utility company right away if you find yourself unable to pay your bill. They will help you find a payment assistance program that is right for your financial situation. They will also be able to educate you about the money saving tips above and more to keep your energy costs low.

Some Money Saving Tips to Keep Energy Costs Low:

  • Remove old appliances, and install energy efficient appliances in your home
  • Caulk windows, doors and anywhere air leaks in or out. Do not caulk around water heater and furnace exhaust pipes.
  • Weather-strip around windows and doors.
  • Set the furnace thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, and the air-conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, health permitting.
  • Use compact fluorescent lamps, and low-wattage light bulbs.
  • Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly, following manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Defrost refrigerators and freezers before ice buildup becomes 1/4-inch thick.
  • Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean. If operating instructions allow, turn off the dishwasher before the drying cycle, open the door and let the dishes dry naturally. Or wash dishes by hand.