L.A. Controller Seeks Improved Access & Oversight of Discounts for Low-Income DWP Customers

LOS ANGELES — Today, Controller Ron Galperin released a report evaluating the reach, effectiveness and oversight of the City’s two utility discount programs for low-income, senior and disabled Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) customers. The report, entitled “Powering Up the City’s Utility Discount Programs,” calls on the City to improve outreach, boost enrollment efforts and establish greater oversight for the Low-Income Discount Program (LIDP) and Lifeline Program — initiatives primarily administered by the DWP with assistance from the Office of Finance, Bureau of Sanitation and private utilities.

“The City’s utility discount programs help low-income residents keep the lights on and water running,” said Controller Galperin. “But the City needs to get eligible Angelenos enrolled through better outreach efforts and make sure those who already receive discounted bills remain qualified to do so. The goal of these programs is to provide financial aid to the residents in our communities who need it most.”

The DWP currently markets the programs with brochures, mailers and online, but does not use available customer billing information to identify potential participants — an approach that can leave households with persistent trouble paying the bills in the dark. On the flipside, the City hasn’t checked the eligibility of Lifeline participants for more than seven years, making it unclear as to how many still qualify for the discounts and opening the door to potential program abuses.

Galperin recommended these steps to strengthen L.A.’s utility discount programs:

(1) Use DWP billing data to better identify which customers may qualify for discounts, conduct proactive outreach to non-English-speaking residents, and get other City departments to help market the programs.

(2) Focus on tracking data and metrics that will evaluate how well the programs are performing and require the DWP to report annually to City leaders on their progress.

(3) Recertify Lifeline customers regularly to ensure they still qualify for the discounts.

More about the programs

In each of the last three fiscal years, the City issued an average of $72 million in financial aid to nearly 279,000 households through these two programs. LIDP provides discounted power, water and other utility services to residents of all ages with annual gross incomes of $33,820 or less. Lifeline offers discounted fees on utility services and full exemption from utility user taxes to residents with household incomes of less than $41,800 who are at least 62 years old or permanently disabled. LIDP customers receive an average 18 percent discount on each bill, compared to a 31 percent discount with Lifeline.

Read Galperin’s full report here: lacontroller.org/utilitydiscounts or https://lacontroller.org/audits-and-reports/utility-discount-programs/.

Click here to learn more about qualifying for a discounted utility bill.