In a major relief for residents of San Diego, California, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) announced that it has erased a total of $51.3 million in overdue utility bills through the California Arrearage Payment Program (CAPP).
The debt relief program, which is the second round of such relief provided by CAPP, forgave any missed payments between March 4, 2020, and December 31, 2021. This period covers the time when many people were out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to SDG&E, if an active customer had an outstanding balance of $100, they would have received a $100 credit to offset that amount. The utility company notified all customers who were credited more than $10. The amount of debt erased will be seen on the next billing statement.
In total, CAPP has provided $113.8 million in debt relief to customers of SDG&E and other local utility companies. The announcement of debt forgiveness comes amid skyrocketing natural gas prices and a 100% rate increase for customers. SDG&E warned customers that the cost per unit of natural gas has shot up to $5.11 compared to $2.36 a year ago.
The increase in natural gas prices will bring utility bills up to $225 for people who were paying $105 last year, according to the company. Low-income customers can expect their bills to rise to $130 from $60 if they enrolled in the CARE discount program. SDG&E claims that it doesn’t make a profit from rising gas prices but rather passes on the cost to its 3.7 million customers.
Dana Golan, the Vice President of Customer Services for SDG&E, said, “We understand the challenges customers are facing as the cost of goods and services across the board continues to increase. While we are facing not good news, we want to make sure our customers are ready for significantly higher winter bills, and more importantly, that there are resources, tools, and financial assistance available, given the severity of natural gas market conditions.”