BELLEVUE, Wash. - Financial assistance from Puget Sound Energy remains available to eligible natural gas customers in Seattle who need help paying last winter's heating bills.

Seattle households with an income below 150 percent of the federal poverty level may be eligible for up to $750 a year in gas bill assistance from PSE's two-year-old HELP program.

The exact amount of HELP aid given to a PSE natural gas or electricity customer depends on household size, income, and energy usage. PSE's program allows recipients to have a higher household income than a similar federal assistance program and is available year-round.

The HELP fund assists both natural gas and electric customers of PSE. In Seattle, PSE provides natural gas service only.

"Puget Sound Energy's HELP program can make a significant difference for people with limited resources," said Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmusssen, chairman of the council's Housing, Human Services and Health Committee. "We must protect the most vulnerable members of our community by ensuring that these services reach those with the greatest needs."

"This fund not only helps people with winter heating," said Darren Brady, PSE vice president of customer service, "but it helps stretch a family's budget throughout the year, for other necessities like food and rent."

A small fraction of PSE's basic rates for natural gas and electricity is dedicated to the HELP program. The average gas or electricity customer pays approximately 12 cents per month into the fund.

PSE's HELP fund is administered by local energy-assistance agencies in each county. PSE has a toll-free phone line (with recordings in English, Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese) that provides the local phone number and address of the energy-assistance office in each county PSE serves. The PSE information number is 866-223-5425.

In Seattle, PSE natural gas customers should call the Central Area Motivation Program at 206-328-2356 for information about HELP eligibility and application procedures.

Publication date: 06/28/2004