The OPC Connection - May 2021

A Note from Your People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye

Stronger Together by Assisting You

The mandate of the Office of the People’s Counsel includes conducting consumer education to make sure District residents are aware of resources that will enable them to thrive. That is especially critical during these difficult times when consumers are behind in paying utility and other bills. So, I join Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city leaders in strongly encouraging all eligible households to take advantage of the STAY DC rental and utility assistance program. STAY DC, or "Stronger Together by Assisting You,” is a federally-funded program for renters and landlords who need support to cover housing and utility expenses and offset the loss of income that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants who meet income qualifications can receive money to pay for rent, gas, water, and electric bills.

According to District officials, so far, there have been more than 15,000 applicants resulting in about $5 million in payments. But that leaves more than $300 million in funding set aside for the city waiting to be claimed. It is imperative that residents apply as soon as possible because if the money is not used by September 30th, the federal government will take it back.

Go to stay.dc.gov to apply or call 833-4-STAYDC for support throughout the application process, Monday through Friday from 7 am to 7 pm.

Consumers also can contact OPC at (202) 727-3071 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have questions.

 

Several days a week, a senior woman who lives alone in her childhood home a few miles from the U.S. Capitol, purchases gallons of water to drink, cook and bathe. Her daily hygiene routine is supported by buckets and plastic bags she dutifully disposes outdoors.

The senior, we will refer to as Ms. Predicament, told an OPC Water Services Division (WSD) customer outreach specialist that her water service was shutoff in January following an overflow of sewage and water in her home. She says she cannot afford needed repairs. Nor does she have family with whom she can reside. This is especially troubling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This consumer’s predicament is not unique. OPC partners, including an array of DC Government, social services and nonprofit agencies, are teaming together to assist Ms. Predicament and others in similar financial binds to cover what DC Water describes as “private leaks.”

WSD has heard from many older consumers who do not have the money to fix leaks or hire a plumber for an inspection. OPC outreach specialists are brainstorming for solutions, including identifying federal aid. A stakeholder roundtable to delve into resources and solutions to assist consumers in this predicament is on the Water Services Division’s radar. If your agency is interested in joining a roundtable, email WSD Manager Steve Dudek at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

An American Water Works Association report notes, “because water and sanitary services are lifeline issues, water and wastewater utilities have a public health obligation to find a way to provide services to low-income customers while still maintaining sustainable finances.”

OPC’s is doing all it can to restore and preserve this lifeline. Contact OPC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are a DC resident living without water service. OPC will work with you to find relief and support.

Alice Thompson is a Community Outreach Specialist with the DC Department of Aging and Community Living (DACL) where she has worked for more than 12 years. OPC congratulates Ms. Thompson for being recognized by Mayor Muriel Bowser at the recent Employee Appreciation Ceremony for her commitment to seniors. In observance of “Older Americans Month,” we feature Ms. Thompson, an OPC Partner.

Who are the key stakeholders assisting our treasured older Washingtonians?

At DACL, we engage with more than 20 community-based partners, who strengthen our service delivery for older consumers. DACL works closely with sister government agencies, like the Office of the People’s Counsel, Department of Energy and Environment, Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to pool resources that help seniors thrive in the communities they know and love. We believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to lookout for their older neighbors, so we also count on community volunteers.

What is the greatest utility challenge facing older residents?

Many seniors struggle with managing high bills. In addition, some fall prey to scams and aggressive marketing practices by some third-party energy suppliers. The education that OPC provides is essential in helping them tomake informed decisions.

How are stakeholders working together to achieve solutions?

DACL partners with OPC to inform consumers about bill payment assistance programs such as those DOEE administers. For example, the Senior Stay Cool Program repairs heating and cooling systems for income-eligible residents.

What is a common complaint you hear from your constituents?

In addition to utilities, it’s access to transportation.

What keeps you happy and serving with a smile?

I am a true hobbyist, I am a gardener, fish keeper, and art collector. I always take time to attend to my hobbies. They keep me upbeat and happy. I also know that my seniors really appreciate me; and they show the love and gratitude when I give them a call.

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 - November 30. While we might not think of the District as a hurricane region, we know that some DC neighborhoods have experienced heavy rain, strong winds and damage far inland.

It is important to create a hurricane preparedness plan and discuss steps to take in severe weather with family members.

Here are a few tips:

  • Know your evacuation zone because if you have to evacuate quickly, you do not want to have to worry about the safest route. Check with local authorities for their preparedness.
  • Keep devices charged and have backup power. This is important so that you can stay informed before, during and after the storm. A battery operated radio is also a good device to have.
  • Have enough supplies of household items, including medication, hygiene supplies, non-perishable food and bottled water.

For more information on hurricane preparedness visit ready.gov/hurricanes and ready.dc.gov.

OPC has returned to the airwaves this month with two new editions of the “OPC Radio Connect Podcast.” Monday – Friday, 7 - 7:30 am, People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Fryeleads informative conversations about issues important to utility consumers. The podcast can be heard on DCRadio.gov, 96.3 HD4, opc-dc.gov, and on apps that play your favorite podcasts

, the People's Counsel is joined by OPC Assistant People’s Counsel Thaddeus Johnson (pictured below) and David Carroll, Managing Director of APPRISE, the national research firm that partnered with the Office to produce the OPC “Energy Affordability Study.” The engaging discussion delves into the study’s findings about the characteristics of the District’s lowand-moderate income consumers, the effectiveness of current energy assistance funding and possible steps to take to fill any funding gaps.
, “Empowering People Through the Pandemic,” the People’s Counsel is joined by OPC Senior Consumer Education Specialist Linda Jefferson (pictured below) and Geriatric Social Worker Giovanna Hunt of the East River Family Strengthening Collaborative. They talk about going the extra mile to meet the needs of consumers struggling to overcome multiple challenges and connect them to a variety of government and nongovernmental assistance.

Stay tuned for upcoming new content!

Do Your Homework

The phrase, "an educated consumer is an informed consumer," holds true regardless of the type of purchasing decision you are making, including deciding to go solar. It is important to do the research and have all the information and understanding about the roles and responsibilities of solar installers prior to making your purchasing decision. For example, being aware of any codes of conduct, rules and responsibilities governing how solar installers should interact with consumers, provides a better chance of ensuring the solar process is a win-win experience for the property owner and the installer.

Learning the nuts and bolts of how a solar system works and its applicability to your unique home or business situation allows for an informed and enriching going solar experience. By doing your homework you will find resources that will equip you with the proper tools to ask prospective solar installers the right questions about features that can fit your needs.

Find the consumer friendly OPC publication, “A DC Consumer’s Guide to Going Solar,” @ opc-dc.gov. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is another good source to get a better understanding of the solar process. Go to: energy.gov. The website of the Solar Energy Industries Association or SEIA also highlights questions consumers should ask of solar installers and expected responses.

When you have the knowledge under your belt, you could benefit from the financial rewards of saving on utility bills, saving energy, and contributing to positive environmental impacts. Happy solar shopping!

When you have the knowledge under your belt, you could benefit from the financial rewards of saving on utility bills, saving energy, and contributing to positive environmental impacts. Happy solar shopping!

OPC is pleased to announce that our 2019-2020 Annual Report, designed with LINK Strategic Partners, has received a Gold Hermes Award.

The Hermes Creative Awards is an international competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing, and design of traditional andemerging media. Hermes Creative Awards recognizes outstanding work in marketing and communications. There were about 6,000 entries from throughout the United States and 19 countries in the 2020 competition. The awards are administered by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

ICYMI, here's the Award Winner!

OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:

OPC2021-01-G - The Petition into the Investigation of Washington Gas Light Company’s System Leak Reduction Practices and Transparency

On April 27, OPC filed a Petition with the PSC to begin an in-depth investigation into WGL's Leak Management Program. OPC filed this motion to determine whether WGL failed to properly manage the natural gas infrastructure in response to an increase in natural gas leaks. Additionally, OPC seeks to determine if WGL has failed to meet obligations set under the merger obligations with AltaGas related to reducing gas leaks.

CC No. 9075256 – Salaam v. Washington Gas Light Company

On May 14, OPC filed an Emergency Motion with the PSC to direct Washington Gas to make immediate repairs, improvements, or changes to gas fixtures at the complainant’s residence. OPC alleges that the presence of a WGL meter bank inside the Salaam home poses an immediate risk and violates U.S. Department of Transportation safety standards.

Do you have feedback or an idea for an article that could be featured in an upcoming edition of the OPC Connection? We want to hear from you! Just drop our editorial team an email @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tweet us @DCOPC.