Today, Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park) announced the expansion of the Utility Discount Program (UDP) to more than 3,000 new Seattle City Light (SCL) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) customers. This expansion is the result of a June 1, 2017 Director’s Rule change allowing Medicare premium expenses to be deducted from Social Security, Social Security Disability Income and Supplemental Security Income. Previously, Medicare Part B premiums were deducted from a senior’s Social Security check but the premium amount was included in their income calculation, causing them to exceed the income threshold to qualify for the discount. Allowing this premium to be deducted from the income calculation makes an estimated 3,000 seniors now eligible to receive utility discounts.
“Housing costs are the largest expense seniors face in our growing city and utility bills are a considerable part of that burden,” said Mayor Murray. “We have doubled enrollment in the Utility Discount Program, and today’s announcement expands eligibility to thousands more seniors. This will help more seniors stay in Seattle and keep the city affordable.”
“Today we’re able to lend a helping hand to people who rely on Medicare Part B to get by,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park). “When a City Light customer informed me her mother made $150 too much to qualify for discounted utilities because the City was calculating her $1,000 in Medicare Part B benefits as ‘income,’ I knew it needed an immediate fix. I’m thankful for our utilities for implementing this common-sense fix.”
This move is a part of Mayor Murray’s commitment to address Seattle’s growing income inequality and remove institutional barriers between services and those in need. In 2014, Mayor Murray challenged City Departments to double the number of households enrolled in the UDP from 14,000 to 28,000 by the end of 2018. This goal was achieved in 2016—two years ahead of schedule—by removing application barriers for households already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and auto-enrolling households who live in subsidized housing. Today, 33,000 utility customers are enrolled in the program.
The UDP provides those who qualify a 60 percent discount on SCL and 50 percent on SPU bills. The average UDP customer household receive an average of $1,200 in annual discounts on utility bills.
Interested customers may download an application on the Human Services Department website.