The OPC Connection – August 2021
A Note from Your People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye
Re-Connecting with the Community
Through the roller coaster conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, OPC has consistently and determinedly connected with utility consumers despite sometimes extraordinary circumstances.
Our Consumer and Water Services Divisions have kept a steady schedule of virtual meetings over the 18 months of the public health emergency. From Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings in all eight wards, to conversations with tenant associations, to webinars with DC government and nonprofit agencies, and on social media platforms. I am pleased to report, while we will continue to communicate with you in the virtual world, we are transitioning to safely connecting with residents in person. For example, we recently joined the National Night Out anti-crime fairs, farmers markets, and food distributions.
We want to do more. There is nothing like face-to-face contact, even at a social distance. So, I ask communities across all eight wards to connect with OPC if you would like us to set up a table at your back to school fair, block party, or civic association event. Contact an OPC consumer outreach specialist at (202) 727-3071 or email@example.com. Being mindful of public safety, they’ll come equipped with trinkets to give away like night lights, first aid kits, fans, and coloring books. More importantly, staff will provide important information about how OPC can connect consumers with bill payment assistance and resources to help you save energy and money on utility bills. And as the moratoriums on service disconnections are about to end, we have key information to share to prepare consumers, including guiding you through the STAY DC rental and utility assistance program.
No matter the coronavirus metrics, OPC is prepared to adapt to ensure we stay connected to the community. We look forward to making an OPC Connection!
OPC’s Jean Gross-Bethel shares information about our services at the Ward 5 National Night Out.
OPC’s Linda Jefferson speaks at the podium at the Mayfair/Paradise Family Success Center COVID-19 Community Safety Awards in Ward 7.
Stay Tuned for Registration Information!
WSD is Here to Provide Post-Pandemic Advocacy &Relief for Water Consumers *Late Penalties to Begin September 1
As the District of Columbia’s COVID-19 public emergency mandates evolve, OPC’s Water Services Division (WSD) is primed to continue to address a range of concerns of DC Water customers, including relief for high bills and payment problems.
WSD staff was here for water consumers before the pandemic and remained steadfast during the pandemic. Now, OPC encourages residents to review and enroll in the many utility discount, emergency relief and conservation programs that span household income-levels and specific needs.
WSD consumer outreach specialists stand ready to find resources to meet residents’ immediate and long-term needs, review billing issues, make referrals to partner agencies that can resolve issues, and give presentations to community groups on how OPC can help.
Penalties to Begin September 1
DC Water announced that penalties for late payments on past due balances will begin September 1. OPC advises you to be prepared!
Check out the programs and resources below:
STAY DC is a financial assistance program for renters and housing providers who need support to pay outstanding DC Water, other utility, and housing expenses due to pandemic-related loss of income.
DC Water offers several programs and service discounts, including Emergency Residential Relief, the CRIAC Residential Relief Program, and Multifamily Assistance for Tenants and Renters. Visit DC Water Customer Assistance Program for details.
DC Department of Energy and Environment provides financial assistance, discounts, and energy efficiency programs to help residents with utility bills. Visit the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program page for details.
DOEE has extended the DC government-funded Emergency Residential Relief Program. Income eligible households may receive an emergency benefit up to $2,000 to help eliminate past due balances.
*DOEE has proposed the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), expected to launch this fall, to provide eligible households with a one-time benefit between $250 and $5,000. See the draft State Plan for the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program for details.
OPC’s Silvia Garrick is recognized in La Voz de MOLA Newsletter. See: https://bit.ly/2VGVEVr
A senior consumer acknowledges OPC Consumer Outreach Specialist Jean Gross-Bethel (pictured) for kindness and amazing work. She writes:
Dear Ms. Bethel,
Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for all your kind help to me. Whenever I call you, you always pick up my calls.
Thank you so much for getting through to Yellow Cab.
I went to my water therapy class in the morning in the Yellow Cab. From there I called the Yellow Cab and asked to talk to Ms. Dawn. She came on the line, I explained to her what happened in the morning, a very kind lady helped me tocall Yellow and get through.
Ms. Dawn was extremely surprised, how you were able to get through so easily!!
That is a complement to you Ms. Bethel, you know exactly how to call big people and talk to them. That is your vast knowledge and great experience. I remember you told me something–that you tried a different way, a different number. You are amazing Ms. Bethel. You are also very kind and good to me.
I cannot thank you enough. I am very, very grateful to you.
Now my phone calls are going through – Thank you, a million times.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
Formal Case No. 1164: An Inquiry into the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on District Utilities and Consumers
On July 21, OPC filed comments in this matter, commending the PSC for directing WGL to file an Arrearage Management Program (AMP). An AMP is a billing program that allows consumers to make 12 consecutive payments and have their pre-AMP arrearages forgiven. The benefits of an AMP include the reduction or elimination of COVID-19 related arrearages, bring accounts current, improve payment habits for new billing and avoid service disconnections.
OPC believes that with modifications, WGL’s proposed AMP could help ensure that vulnerable residents continue to maintain their gas services. OPC’s comments also request WGL to increase the amount of the allowed arrearage balance and extend the 6-month enrollment period.
Formal Case No. 1167: The Implementation of the Pepco Climate Business Plan
On July 23, OPC joined AOBA, CHESSA, DC Climate Action, DC Government and the Sierra Club in filing a Joint Motion to Amend Motion of Clarification ofOrder No. 20754. The motion sought to have the Commission clarify certain statements in the Order regarding Pepco’s role in advancing the deployment of distributed energy resources to ensure that the Order does not violate District law by allowing Pepco to own alternative generation sources.
Formal Case No. 1142: The Merger Application of AltaGas & Washington Gas.
On July 28, OPC filed Comments in Response to Order No. 20735 and a Motion Requesting a Show Cause Order be issued to WGL for its failure to provide information as requested in Order No. 20735. Specifically, OPC’s comments highlight how WGL’s failure to provide critical information to the Commission regarding field service transaction satisfaction, escalation callback procedures and field service appointment metrics make it difficult for the Commission to ensure there is a plan in place to improve WGL’s customer service.
Interns Faith Jones, Tehilah Tah, and Keiry Morales discuss their survey of fellow high school students on the impact of evictions on youth. OPC partnered with the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate, the Alvaina Foundation, and the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program to give the teens an enriching experience.
OPC’s Cheryl Morse and Aaron Ward at the Metropolitan Police Department’s Beat the Streets community event.
OPC’s George Gilbert, Jr. at the Mayfair/Paradise Family Success Center sharing information about COVID-19 utility assistance programs.
OPC’s Erica Jones at the Ward 8 National Night Out.