PECO received $270 million in federal and state funding through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, money that can be used to help people who can't pay their bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only a limited number of customers have enrolled, and to date only $500,000 of that money has been spent. The ERAP money is use-it or lose-it, meaning if there are unused funds when at the end of the program, it will be returned to the government or reassigned. ERAP will run until at least September 2021, though it could be extended.
PECO reported that of customers who are behind on their energy bills, the average customer owes $512, which is an unprecedented level of need. At the beginning of the pandemic, the percentage of PECO customers enrolled in assistance programs was only in the single digits, but has jumped to 14%, which is likely due to the ending of utility and evicition moratoriums in Philadelphia. PECO has amped up their outreach efforts, especially to newly energy vulnerable populations who are in need of assistance for the first time due to the pandemic. Numbers of individuals receiving assistance through ERAP is still quite low, potentially due to technology barriers experienced by households that are in need of this assistance.
This article is significant for multiple reasons. In this article there's a quote from PECO stating that their customers are facing unprecedented needs, yet they are still proposing to increase their rates, which will only amplify burdens all customers, especially those who are experiencing energy vulnerability. This article also discusses a stream of energy assistance that is not being exhausted, and this information should be spread to our research participants and to NECs.
Hannah Kanik, "PECO has millions available to help with energy bills, but says few eligible customers are applying for assistance", contributed by Morgan Sarao, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 29 June 2021, accessed 17 August 2022. https://energyrights.info/content/peco-has-millions-available-help-energy-bills-says-few-eligible-customers-are-applying