Announcement: City seeks immigrants, refugees for Utility Discount Program enrollment

The International Examiner August 29, 2014 0
On August 13, Mayor Ed Murray discussed the city's efforts to promote affordability by increasing enrollment in the Utility Discount Program. • Photo by City of Seattle

On August 13, Mayor Ed Murray discussed the city’s efforts to promote affordability by increasing enrollment in the Utility Discount Program. • Photo by City of Seattle

Throughout September, Seattle City Light staff will be available at five Farmers Markets to help sign up low-income residents for the Utility Discount Program (UDP). This effort is part of the city’s commitment to help make Seattle affordable for its working families, with a special emphasis on immigrant and refugee communities.

“Increasing enrollment in the Utility Discount Program is another critical step we are taking on the road to making Seattle affordable for everyone who wants to live here,” said Mayor Ed Murray in a statement.

Under the program, a family of four making $4,905 a month or less can receive up to a 60 percent discount from their City Light bill and up to a 50 percent discount on their water, sewer, and garbage bill.

“Immigrant and refugee residents deal with numerous language, cultural, and financial challenges on a regular basis,” said Cuc Vu, director of the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. “Keeping the power on and healthy food on their tables shouldn’t be among of them.”

City staff will aid with UDP enrollment and participation in the following Farmers Market locations and dates:

• University District, Saturdays, September 6 and 20
• Broadway, Sundays, September 7 and 21
• Ballard, Sundays, September 7 and 21
• Columbia City, Wednesdays, September 10 and 24
• Lake City, Thursdays, September 11 and 25

The sign-up events are aimed at adding new underserved populations to the current 16,000 income-qualified families and individuals enrolled in UDP.

“Seattle City Light wants to ensure everyone who needs it can access the Utility Discount Program. One way to do that is to go out and speak to customers directly, make materials and information available in their languages, offer face-to-face communication,” said Kelly Enright, Seattle City Light Customer Care Director.

According to a recent city report, only an estimated 11 percent of foreign-born city residents are participating in the UDP. Focus groups conducted during the development of the report found that language barriers present substantial obstacles to service. In order to address the language barriers, interpreters and translated materials will be available during the sign-up events.

Additionally, staff will be educating residents about Fresh Bucks at these events. Fresh Bucks doubles the purchasing power for low-income Seattle residents who use their federal food stamp benefits (called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at Farmers Markets. For every dollar spent at a Seattle farmers market, up to $10—SNAP shoppers receive an additional dollar to spend on fruits and vegetables.

The Fresh Bucks program is a collaborative effort by the City of Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment, the Washington State Farmers Market Association, and Seattle’s farmers markets to expand access to healthy food for low-income shoppers at farmers markets.

For information and eligibility requirements, visit http://murray.seattle.gov/udp.

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