Murray moves to strengthen utility rate discount program

Mayor Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee, David Rolf of SEIU 775NW, and Howard Wright of Seattle Hospitality Group

Mayor Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee, David Rolf of SEIU 775NW, and Howard Wright of Seattle Hospitality Group

Mayor cites need for household financial security

Mayor Ed Murray said today that, to strengthen the financial security of Seattle households and as part of his broader affordability agenda, he will seek to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the City’s utility rate discount program, with the goal of doubling the 14,000 households now participating by the year 2018.

“I have said all along that, while a living wage is an important piece to addressing the overall affordability crisis we face in this city, it alone is not enough,” said Murray. “Wages are growing too slowly, while costs are growing too quickly. As we address the issue of wages, we also need to address these cost issues – including costs for City-provided services. And as we consider difficult but occasionally necessary service rate increases, we must recommit to minimizing the impacts on those who can least afford them.”

The latest estimate from Public Health-Seattle & King County indicates that as many as 65,000 households could be eligible for the rate discount program. Qualifying households – those earning less than 70 percent of the state median income – are eligible for discounts of 50 to 60 percent on their Seattle electric, drinking water, garbage/recycling, sewer and drainage bills.

Program eligibility depends on the size of the household. For example, a household of four would need to earn less than $58,860 a year to qualify for the program. More information on eligibility can be found here.

Murray said the Great Recession underscored the value of the City’s utility discount program, and noted that the number of households currently enrolled in the program is approaching peak recession levels. He also noted that Seattle City Light has among the lowest electricity rates – and the most robust low-income rate discounts – in the nation.

“Without question, this is positive news,” said Murray. “But, at a time when Seattle is on the verge of being a city where only the rich can afford to live, we as a City can do better, and we must do better.”

Murray said he has asked the directors of the three departments responsible for overseeing the low-income assistance program – Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and the Human Services Department – to report back to him in one month with a plan that clarifies the number of eligible residents and improves the City’s ability to reach out and enroll more households.

More information on Seattle’s Utility Discount Program is available here.

Murray today also announced the launch of a website containing information related to his Income Inequality Advisory Committee, which features a calendar of opportunities for public input in March, including a public meeting with the Seattle City Council’s Select Committee on Minimum Wage, an online town hall, and a symposium.

The website is available here.

Watch the press conference:

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