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PG&E pushes program that hurts middle class
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

I’m writing you to inform you of what just happened this (Sunday) morning.

A PG&E employee was going door-to-door in my neighborhood getting people to sign up for their ‘CARE/FERA’ program.  Apparently this is geared for ‘low income households’ to get a 20% discount on their PG&E bill.  I don’t think anybody in my neighborhood would qualify, but he had quite a few applications already filled-out on his clipboard.

This gentleman was trying to get me to sign up for this program quite quickly and not asking any questions about our family income.  “Just show me page 1 of your PG&E bill and I’ll show you where you are being charged by the state for this program and I’ll sign you up for a 20% discount”. 

He showed me the ‘Gas PPP Surcharge’ of $4.59 I’m paying this month; and the description on the back of the bill says of the charge, “The non-bypassable charge that funds state-mandated assistance programs for low-income customers and energy efficient programs”.  Okay, this ‘state-mandated’ charge certainly angers me as I don’t believe it is my (as a rate-payer) responsibility to subsidize the bill-paying ability of the low-income nor do I believe the state should tax us (or charge a fee) to subsidize energy-efficient programs.  The energy-efficient companies should be able to sell their products to the public through advertising the benefits of buying their products, not forced-robbery of the law-abiding rate-payers.  But that is different from what was angering me about the PG&E visit.

This visit reminded me of when our kids were in elementary school and at the beginning of each year with all of the other paperwork to be filled out was an application for free or reduced lunch programs.  All you had to do was fill out the app and you’re in.  I don’t believe there was any background check of the family income to qualify for the program, so any family could get free lunch no matter their income.  I believe the schools got more state/federal monies if they had more ‘low income’ students enrolled, so the more the merrier.

 I asked the gentleman why PG&E was sending him out to sign people up for this program and he said, “because only 3% responded to the applications that come in the mail with the bills.”  I’m thinking that people don’t sign up for programs for which they don’t qualify. That is why there is a 3% response.  Not because we’re stupid; we’re honest.  “Who qualifies for this program?” I asked.  “Middle and low income families,” he said.  “Who pays for this discount?” I’m getting really curious now since I know PG&E wouldn’t just knock $60 off my latest bill.  

“The wealthy families, making over $1 million a year,” he insisted.  I know this math doesn’t add up and now I’m mad he is using class envy to sell this load of excrement.  Then I flipped over the application that he already filled out for me (and was asking me to sign) and noticed that to qualify for this program our annual family income must be no more than $44,800 before taxes!  As much as I  was tempted to shut up and take my discount, I just couldn’t and said, “I don’t qualify for this program.”  He said, “Thank you, sir,” and quickly walked off.

So who pays for this program, and why would PG&E be pushing this on their customers?  Certainly ‘the wealthy’ are not the only ones paying for this scheme, it is the middle class and over.  Although I’m sure fewer in the middle class will be paying the PPP Surcharge in the form of their newly-found 20% discount on their bill, this is a tax on the honest middle class and the ‘wealthy’ rate-payers who do not qualify for the discount but are paying for others to receive it.  And PG&E is sending their people door-to-door as a goodwill to Mantecans and ignoring the ‘who qualifies’ part of this state-mandated rate-payer-taxed scheme.

                        Joe Reed
Manteca
Jan. 23, 2010