For Immediate Release | 4-20-20
Media Contact | Daniel Schwiebert
Direct | 602-542-3625
E-Mail | DPSchwiebert@azcc.gov
REMOTELY FROM TUCSON – Arizona Corporation Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson is urging Arizona residents to contact their utilities as soon as possible to learn about the resources and options that are available to them to help keep their bills affordable during COVID-19. Commissioner Peterson is also urging customers to contact their utilities for assistance before bills become past-due, so financial burdens don’t build and become too unmanageable after payments have been missed.
“The Arizona Corporation Commission has been working to ensure utilities are making resources available to customers during COVID-19, to help keep monthly bills affordable,” said Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson. “More than ever before we have households across the state who have had their hours reduced or are not working and now need assistance for the first time. If your household lost its income or received a reduction in hours that could impact your ability to pay monthly utility bills, the best thing you can do is to reach out.”
“Customers should contact their utilities as soon as possible to tell them the challenges they are facing and hear the resources that are available to them, as the Commission has directed utilities to work with customers and provide information regarding resources when customers call. Ignoring bills will only increase the financial stress in the end and increase the struggle families will face as they work to make it through these challenging times. It is imperative that customers act to set up a payment plan before bills are due and try to pay what they can to prevent unpaid balances from becoming too large.”
Utility Bill Assistance Programs
Every major electric, water, and natural gas utility regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission provides low-income assistance and other programs designed to provide monthly discounts for qualifying low-income customers. Qualifying for these programs often depends on household size and gross household income, which can change when employment status and work hours change.
“If your household income has recently declined as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, you may qualify for a reduced monthly bill, even if you were not eligible to participate in a discount program previously,” noted Commissioner Marquez Peterson. “Also, if you are already receiving assistance through a low-income discount – and your income has dropped further – you may now qualify for an even lower monthly payment.”
Commissioner Marquez Peterson added that utilities provide a variety of options to help low-income customers:
- “Budget billing” – averages the customer’s annual utility costs over 12 months and bills the customer a flat rate based on the average, so bill amounts do not vary from month to month;
- “Payment plans” – help to address past-due bills or delinquent balances by spreading their repayment over a period of time, such as in monthly installments;
- “Hardship funds” – are funds available to eligible customers that utilities, other customers, and non-profit and charitable organizations have donated; Arizona’s utilities have donated over $1 million to help communities and customers impacted by COVID-19; and
- “Lifeline service” – provides federal financial support to help eligible low-income customers keep their telephone and internet access active and online during times of need. For more information visit https://www.lifelinesupport.org or call 1-800-234-9473 between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
Additionally, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may also have funds available to help eligible customers in need. Consumers should call their utility as soon as possible to inquire about such programs. Customers can also visit the LIHEAP official website by clicking here, https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1529.
Wildfire, a social service agency supported by utility company donations and grants, works closely with Community Action Agencies across the state to provide emergency financial assistance, utility bill assistance, and rental payment assistance. To find a Community Action Agency in your county and get assistance, visit https://wildfireaz.org/find-help/community-action-agencies/.
Save with Energy Conservation
Commissioner Marquez Peterson also encourages families to explore energy conservation as a way to help manage their bills – especially as more Arizonans are adapting to working from home.
While the spring season is typically a lower-usage time of the year, temperatures are quickly rising in Arizona and many households are now spending their entire day at home and increasing their use of computers and other devices, Commissioner Marquez Peterson noted. Since energy usage makes up the largest portion of monthly utility costs for most consumers, shifting to working and schooling at home could have a notable impact on future monthly bills, if active conservation and usage patterns are not taken into consideration.
Simple actions such as turning off unneeded lights and appliances,taking advantage of cool morning air; running only full loads in washers, dryers, and dishwashers; staggering the use of large appliances and chores throughout the day; or adjusting thermostats a few degrees, can add up to substantial energy savings over the course of a month. Reduced usage helps reduce the risk of overloading our energy grids, therefore increasing the reliability of our energy system when access to safe and reliable power is needed the most.
While Arizona utilities have committed to end payment-related terminations for utility services, consumers with questions or concerns about their circumstances may still need to contact their utility. If questions remain after talking to your utility, please call the Arizona Corporation Commission at 1-800-222-7000 or visit www.azcc.gov.
About Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson, MBA, IOM:
Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson was appointed to the Arizona Corporation Commission by Governor Doug Ducey in May of 2019. She is the first Latina to serve in a statewide seat in the state of Arizona.
Lea has been an entrepreneur in our community for many years and served as the President/ CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber from 2009 until November of 2018. The Tucson Hispanic Chamber serves the business community in the bilingual, bi-cultural region of the Arizona-Sonora border and was recognized as the Hispanic Chamber of the Year in 2013 by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The chamber represents over 1800-member businesses and in partnership with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is one of the largest chambers in the State of Arizona.
She ran for Congress in Arizona Congressional District 2 in 2018 and won a competitive primary race though lost the general election. She previously served as the Executive Director for Greater Tucson Leadership (GTL) from 2005 to 2009 and owned and operated a Business Brokerage Firm from 2005 to 2009 and a chain of six gasoline stations / convenience stores with 50 employees from 1998 to 2005 in the Tucson region.
Lea has been appointed to serve on the Arizona Judicial Council which advises the Arizona Supreme Court and the Arizona Finance Authority, the state’s bonding authority. She chairs the Board of Directors of Carondelet’s St Mary’s and St Joseph’s Hospitals in Tucson and is the former Chair of the Pima Association of Governments’ Economic Vitality Committee. She serves on the Boards of the University of Arizona Foundation and the Pima County Workforce Investment Board and is the President of the National Association of Women Business Owners in Tucson. She also serves on the national board for the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
She received her undergraduate degrees in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona, and her Master of Business Administration from Pepperdine University. She is married with two children.
The Arizona Corporation Commission was established by the state’s constitution to regulate public utilities and business incorporation. The Corporation Commission is Arizona’s co-equal, fourth branch of government. The five Commissioners elected to the Corporation Commission oversee executive, legislative, and judicial proceedings on behalf of Arizonans when it comes to their water, electricity, telephone, and natural gas resources as well as the regulation of securities, pipeline, and railroad safety. To learn more about the Arizona Corporation Commission and its Commissioners, visit http://azcc.gov.