Regulators expand bill assistance program for Avista customers affected by COVID-19

Source: Washington UTC, April 10, 2020

Olympia, Wash. – The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) today approved temporary changes to Avista Corporation’s Low-Income Rate Assistance Program (LIRAP) to provide aid to customers who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residential natural gas and electric customers having trouble paying their bills will be able to apply for hardship grants of up to $350 from current LIRAP funds, and an existing cap of one grant per program per year has been lifted.

Additionally, the low-income verification requirement to qualify for Avista’s LIRAP program has been shortened from three months to one month so that customers experiencing a sudden loss of income can receive aid quickly.

“I commend Avista for proposing these changes,” said UTC Chair Dave Danner. “We know that in these difficult times many families will need help paying their energy bills, and we share the company’s commitment to getting assistance out quickly to those who need it.”

LIRAP funds are administered by local community action agencies. Customers who need to apply for the hardship grant should reach out to the agency in their area. Customers can also call Avista at 800-227-9187 to discuss bill payment options.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Avista had already voluntarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment.

Spokane-based Avista serves more than 250,000 electric customers and nearly 164,000 natural gas customers in Eastern Washington.

The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.