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How To Access Affordable Energy in California Through CARE

By IntFormalities
Updated on June 27, 2024
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

California is one of America’s most expensive states in terms of living costs, but many programs are in place to support low- to middle-income individuals and families in the Golden State. 

The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program is one of California’s initiatives to subsidize low-income residents’ electricity and natural gas bills. How does the CARE program California work? We’ve put together everything you need to know in this detailed guide.  

Eligible low-income households in California cut down monthly energy bills by up to 35% with CARE.
Eligible low-income households in California cut down monthly energy bills by up to 35% with CARE.

What Is the CARE Program?

The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program is a private and state-funded initiative that offers low- and middle-income residents monthly energy bill discounts. Qualified individuals and families can enjoy up to a 35% electricity discount and a 20% natural gas discount

How Does CARE Work?

The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) is supported through a public-private partnership (PPP) involving small businesses, local business associations, communities, and the state, represented by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). 

Energy companies, including the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), support the program through initiatives like the PGE CARE program, which provides long-term energy bill discounts. The exact discount rate you receive depends on your service provider. For companies with fewer than 100,000 customers, the program offers a 20% discount. Providers with 100,000 or more customers offer discounts ranging from 30% to 35%.

Did you know that low-income families can access refundable tax credits? Check if you qualify for CalEITC here.

Who Is Eligible for CARE?

The CARE program is designed to help low-income California households reduce their monthly energy costs. This program is available to both homeowners and renters who meet the income eligibility requirements and have the energy bill in their name.

Eligibility requirements vary from one provider to another, but generally include the following:

  • Being a registered California resident 
  • Living at the address where the CARE discount applies 
  • Having the energy bill in your name
  • Not sharing an energy meter with another apartment 
  • Meeting the program’s income guidelines set by CPUC or your provider

What Is the Income Limit for the CARE Program?

According to CPUC, you are eligible for the CARE program if your total household income is at or below the income guidelines below. Note that having a household income below or within the expected range doesn’t guarantee CARE benefits. These are the current income limits up to May 31, 2024:

Number of Household MembersGross CARE Program Income Limits
1-2$39,440 or below
3$49,720 or below
4$60,000 or below
5$72,280 or below 
6$80,560 or below 
7$90,840 or below 
8$101,120 or below 
Adding an additional person $10,280
Source: CPUC CARE income guidelines.

If you already qualify for CARE and your income changes, you must provide your updated income information and notify your energy company to review your eligibility. If your income is no longer within the expected range for the CARE program, your provider will inform you of other public assistance programs you can apply for.

How To Apply for the C.A.R.E. Program

The CARE enrollment process is strictly online. To enroll, visit the website of your preferred utility company and fill out their CARE application form. Some of the energy companies supporting CARE include PG&E, Edison, Liberty Utilities, SoCalGas, and West Coast Gas. 

The only document required for the CARE application is the online form you’ll get from your preferred provider’s website. Completing the online form takes only a few minutes. 

After applying, you should receive feedback within a few days or weeks. Some companies speed up the process for participants facing utility shut-off risks, so you may get a quicker response if you fall in this category. 

Enrolling in other public assistance programs like Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and LIHEAP offers you automatic CARE qualification and can expedite the approval process. 

How Can I Continue to Receive CARE Discounts?

Once you qualify for the CARE program, you must renew your enrollment periodically, provided your income remains within the qualifying range. How often you must reapply for CARE depends on your utility company. Some providers require annual renewals, while others, like PG&E, require renewal every two to four years.

You may also reapply if your income changes. Typically, your provider will send a renewal request a few months before your discount expires, allowing you to re-enroll or update your income information if needed.

To continue receiving CARE discounts after the initial approval expires, you must prove your eligibility by providing the required documentation within 90 days of receiving the letter or mail. These include:

  • Proof of income 
  • Evidence of enrollment in other public assistance programs like Medi-Cal
  • Details of the number of people in your household 
  • Verification of residence 
  • A new CARE application form

Can You Get Other Benefits Alongside Care?

If you are enrolled in other state and federal assistance programs, like CalWORKs, CalFresh, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medi-Cal/Medicaid, you can automatically qualify for the CARE program. This means you can receive CARE benefits alongside these medical and food insurance programs. 

However, CARE and the Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) programs are run by the same government agency (CPUC), so you can only qualify for one at a time. If you don’t qualify for FERA, CARE has lower income limit requirements, and you’ll be automatically evaluated for it. 

CARE Puts Some Money Back in Your Pocket 

The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) makes energy and utility affordable for eligible low-income earners in the state. You can apply for CARE benefits and get up to a 35% discount on your monthly energy bills if your annual income falls within the program’s income guidelines. 

If you need help or more information about the CARE program, visit the CPUC website to find individual websites and phone numbers of energy assistance companies near you.  

FAQs

What is the California state program for utilities?

CARE is California’s support program for residents who want to get discounted utilities. It offers a 20% to 35% discount to eligible households. 

Is there a senior discount on utilities in California?

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program provides subsidies to low-income households with seniors of 60 years or older. The discount covers home energy and utility bills. 

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IntFormalities

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