May 28th, 2010 6:16 AM by Lehel S.
ROSEMEAD - When it comes to paying utility bills, a few dollars can make a big difference.
And Southern California Edison is inviting customers to give a few pennies each month to its Energy Assistance Fund (EAF) to help their neighbors in need.
The program, funded by SCE employees and the utility's parent company, Edison International, grants up to $100 a year to help Edison ratepayers who cannot pay their electric bills.
"At the end of last year we did a survey and it revealed that about half a million people were having trouble paying their bills," SCE spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady said Wednesday. "We know this is a really hard time for our customers."
SCE'S EAF program allows customers to chip in by rounding up their monthly utility bills to the next nearest dollar. So if someone's bill was $76.45, that would be rounded up to $77 and the extra 55 cents would go toward the fund.
"If 170,000 customers round up their bills to the nearest dollar amount, more than $1 million will be generated for the EAF program and can help keep the program running all year long," said Lynda Ziegler, SCE's senior vice president of customer service.
"Rounding up your bill each month only comes to about $6 per year but can make a huge difference in someone's life."
To sign up for the "round up" program or to make a one-time donation, customers can call 800-655-4555, visit www.sce.com/eaf, or choose the "round up" option on their monthly bill.
Last year the Energy Assistance Fund served about 8,600 customers. United Way of Greater Los Angeles administers the funds for the company through 75 community-based organizations.
McGrady said the program is especially important for the recently unemployed.
"Many low-income customers already know about this program, but the ones who are newly laid off don't always know that there is help," she said. "They have always been able to make their payments. We hope to keep this fund going."
Edison also offers bill assistance through a California Alternate Rate for Energy (CARE) program that provides a discount of 20 percent or more on income-qualifying customers' monthly electric bills.
Additional bill-assistance programs are also available.
For more information, visit www.sce.com/assistance or call 800-369-3652.