Austin Energy Low Income Customer AdvocatesApril 16, 2014

Notes form Subcommittee Meeting — original pdf

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Discount Steering Committee Meeting Minutes February 24, 2014 In attendance: Michelle Akers (HACA) Kathleen Hopkins (Any Baby Can) Pat Macy (St. Austin Catholic Church) Tondalier Owens (Travis County HHS & VS) Linda Perez (Meals on Wheels & More) Angel Ramirez (Texas VFW Foundation) Ronnie Mendoza (AE) Sandra Castillo (AE) Melissa Davis (AE) Jessica Twining (AE) Irene Nemitsas (AE) Review of meeting minutes – February 15th, 2014 Approved as is. Discount Program Qualifier Numbers/Percentages • Mass Mailing o Austin Energy recently conducted mass letter mailing to 120,000 MAP recipients in targeted zipcodes, promoting open spots in Discount Program for MAP beneficiaries o Mailed about 2 weeks ago o Solix has noticed increase in volume of calls for applications – hopefully will help fill some of those open MAP spots o Linda from MoW requested a copy of the letter to be distributed to DSC so they can give to their clients • Community Benefit Charge Fund Forecasting o Current 33,000 spots will still not utilize funding overage from FY2013 o As such, spots have increased to 45,000 o Initiated Friday, 2/21 o Pending 11,000 enrollment into program o Even though understood that this number will have to be reduced back to 25,000 (though there will be some carryover into FY15) o Will just not re-enroll customers when their enrollment expires o But hoping City Council will see the need for the program and provide additional funding to keep at/close to 45,000 • Re-Evaluation of Current Formula o Currently 4,000-5,000 MAP openings – how do we equitably use these? o Is it ok to absorb into other programs? Committee agreed yes. o Using formula already created, if a program is not utilizing all allocated spots, after a period of 4 months (after beginning of fiscal year), use formula to disperse between top-three demanded programs. Then with new fiscal year, go back to original allocation o Right now top three programs are Medicaid, CHIP and SNAP Weatherization • Reporting o Ronnie reviewed current numbers of CAP weatherization program o Goal is to weatherize 200 homes during FY14 (this includes carryover funds from FY2013 plus FY14 funding) o Numbers include:  Eligible customers (includes two priority 1 lists and one priority 2 list pulled since October 2013) = 967  Completed home visits = 123  Customers completing education class = 73  Customers pending education class = 20  Completed audits = 60  Pending audits = 7  Completed weatherization jobs = 3  Jobs with contractor = 8  Jobs awaiting contractor assignment = 34  Jobs pending final inspection = 4 o Why is the completed weatherization jobs number so low?  Currently all contracts being bid out to contractors is going through Contract Management, who receives the work orders from AE then disperses jobs  Current process is taking longer than hoped at 30-60 days  Ronnie is planning on intervening because it is very important to reach target of 200 homes in order to utilize all funding  Weatherization report going to City Council on Monday, March 3 • Square Footage Formula o AE still currently working on creating a working formula for energy burden – working with business intelligence group • Tampering o For CAP eligible weatherization customers who have tampering on their account, should they still be eligible for weatherization? o Ronnie gave background concerning recent changes in hearing regulations- previously tampering was a non-hearable issue, but City Council received numerous complaints o Effective 7/2013, tampering is now a hearable issue o Based on that, DSC decided to treat those accounts like any other:  CAP weatherization customers need to go through the same process. If they are held unaccountable then we can proceed with weatherization.  If they are held accountable and pay full restitution (any usage during tampering period + any fees associated with meter replacement), then they are eligible for weatherization. • Referrals Out-of-scope, Structure, Cleanliness o For homes deemed out of scope due to structural issues with renters (not homeowners), having trouble finding an agency to assist – DSC was in agreement, and suggested landlord as possible avenue o Concerning cleanliness  If AE visits a home they deem is a safety hazard, need to contact CPS and/or APS  If resident is already receiving services from an agency, have them contact their case manager to see if they can assist in cleaning the home  If resident is not receiving services, give them 30 days to clean the home, then make a second home visit  If they have not cleaned sufficiently, they will be deemed out of scope until their account possibly re-appears on a future list. Then can be re-visited. • Letter/Call Process o AE proposed switching the current contact process back to 2 initial calls, followed by a mailed letter o This time mailed letter to include a deadline date to contact AE for more weatherization info o DSC approved change. Arrearage Program Overview • Most DSC meeting attendees were present for 2/19 Consumer Advocates Meeting expressed concern that meeting got off track – focused more on program development rather than policymaking • As such, the facilitator, Robena Jackson, requested DSC handle creation of arrearage program, then bring recommendation to CAG to discuss/react • DSC agreed to create program outline. • AE pulled arrearage program research for DSC to use as tools for program creation, including: o National Consumer Law Center report, plus abridged synopsis on “Helping Low-Income Utility Customers Manage Overdue Bills through Arrearage Management Programs” o Arrearage Program Design Matrix o Examples of other nationwide arrearage programs o 2014 Federal Poverty Income Limits o Fixed Income Pilot Project (AE pilot project) o Requested DSC to review the documents before the next meeting/working session • How much will an arrearage program cost AE? o Preliminary unaudited numbers show that CAP discount customers owe $2.8 million dollars o Numbers are still being pulled for all other residential customers, but Ronnie mentioned debt amount for this group is much higher • Ronnie stated AE tried to pull comparisons from other municipally-owned utilities on their arrearage programs but could not find anything comparable • Recommended issues to be tackled: o Need to be two programs – one for CAP customers and one for general “residential”  Residential customers will be referred/case managed by outside agencies  CAP discount customers will be managed by AE o Definition of exactly what “arrearage” debt amount is  Possibly debt over $5,700? This is the amount an individual can get through other community services ($1,500 Plus 1, $1,200 CEAP, $3,000 BSS+) o Also need to be careful not to “incentivize” customers to not pay their bills, in hopes of enrolling in program and receiving AE pledges to pay off their debt • Recommended possible debt payment scenarios might include: o Graduate into percentage-based program – After six months of paying current bill, a certain percent of arrears is paid off by AE as a pledge, after another six months, another percentage paid off, etc. o Start immediately with percentage-based program – If customer continues to pay current monthly bill, from month one provide “pledges” to customer account Next Steps Next meeting/working session set for Wednesday, March 5 from 10a-11:30a.