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Utility-Bill Aid Program Seeks Business Support

Times Staff Writer

A program to help impoverished residents pay their utility bills was kicked off this week with an appeal to community business leaders for contributions.

Project APPLE (Assisting Pasadena People With Limited Emergencies) will provide residents who are unable to pay their utility bills with a one-time subsidy of up to $100.

The Pasadena program will be the first of its kind nationwide to be operated without public funds, Mayor William E. Thomson Jr. told local business leaders at the Tuesday morning meeting.

“For some families in our city, as well as in our country, utility service has increasingly become an unaffordable luxury,” Thomson said. “I am convinced that this great community is one that is willing and able to support its citizens who are in need.”

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The program is expected to serve 350 families a year, or 10% of those who have their utility service discontinued for non-payment of bills, said Mike Milliner, principal administrative analyst for the Pasadena Department of Water and Power.

Citizens Energy Corp., a nonprofit energy broker based in Massachusetts, will eventually contribute $20,000 toward Project APPLE, said company Chairman Michael Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

City officials expect another $30,000 to be donated by businesses leaders, utility customers and city employees, Milliner said.

In coming weeks, mailers will be sent to Pasadena businesses, seeking support for the program. So far, the city has received about $1,000 in donations, with $500 coming from the Operating Engineers International Union, Local 12, said Deputy City Manager Edward Aghjayan.

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Citizens’ representatives suggested the program last year after city officials bought about $300,000 worth of electricity that the firm had purchased from a utility company in Provo, Utah. The company is also contributing to a subsidy program for low-income utility customers in Provo, Kennedy said.

Kennedy said the Pasadena program, similar to others his firm has operated to provide heating oil to the poor in Eastern states, will benefit all utility customers.

“It will enable people who would normally go into bad debt to pay their bills and keep paying their bills,” he said. “Normally, the bad debt is written off by the utility, and you and I pay for it.”


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