The Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners has adopted a motion directing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to halt the practice of water and electric shutoffs as a debt collection tool. Under the new motion, those enrolled in LADWP’s EZ-SAVE program — which offers income-qualified residential customers with a discount to help reduce the cost of electricity, water, and sewer service — as well as those enrolled in the Senior Citizen Lifeline Discount Program, will be eligible for shutoff protection. The Commissioners’ directive was approved at its Nov. 8, 2022, board meeting. The motion also prohibits shutoffs for all customers during extreme weather events, such as extreme heat episodes that can harm public health, safety and welfare.
Among the Board’s key priorities is to provide support to residents in Los Angeles’ most income-vulnerable communities who may be struggling to pay utility debts for electricity to light their homes and apartments, afford air conditioning and maintain uninterrupted water service. Many residents remain affected by the ongoing economic crisis and climate change challenges wherein they find that costs for goods and services are sharply rising while their incomes do not. LADWP has made a serious commitment to promote equity by helping low-income customers afford essential water and power services, participate in LADWP’s clean energy transformation through the LA100 Equity Strategies initiative, and access customer programs to help them save costs on their monthly bills. The Board’s action followed a review of equity-related water and power shutoff patterns conducted by LADWP and documented by the UCLA Luskin Center’s recent research.
Studies revealed that before, during and after the COVID-19 moratorium, low-income customers paid their utility bills at the same rate or higher than all customers.
LADWP data and community testimonies show that Black, Latinx, and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by high utility burden and therefore face the brunt of utility debt and shutoffs.
While the Board motion will stop the use of utility shutoffs as a debt collection practice for customers enrolled in qualified LADWP assistance programs, the Department was also directed to increase marketing efforts and partnerships with community-based organizations to raise awareness of assistance programs that help customers pay their utility bills.
Customers who would have had their utilities shut off prior to the Board policy will be prioritized for a “Customer Consultation.” The Board also indicated it will consider in the future whether to extend similar shut-off protections to small commercial customers as well customers in the top 20 percent highest scoring census tracts under CalEnviroScreen 4.0.