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PG&E Utility Doubles Low-Income Assistance for Winter

As part of a series of expanded programs by utilities in the state to help buffer customers from this winter's expected high natural gas bills, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Wednesday announced it has doubled the funds available for its low-income assistance program, REACH (Relief for Assistance through Community Help), to $3 million through launching a pledge drive among its customers and employees. As a result maximum aid to qualifying low-income customers will be increased to $300/household, compared to its previous $200 limit.

REACH, a one-time cash grant to customers in immediate need of energy assistance, is funded by donations from the utility's shareholders, employees and customers, and it is administered by The Salvation Army through a network of 170 offices in 45 counties, the utility said. Over the past 23 years, REACH has provided help to more than 400,000 low-income families.

PG&E shareholders contributed $250,000 to REACH, and they will match new customer/employee donations up to an additional $750,000. The utility also makes a charitable contribution each year to cover all the administrative costs, so 100% of employee and customer contributions go toward providing support to poor families.

"PG&E understands that higher natural gas prices are especially hard-hitting to those customers who are most vulnerable," said Ophelia Basgal, the PG&E utility's vice president of civic partnerships and community initiatives. "It is also important to note that this contribution is coming from PG&E shareholder, rather than ratepayer, funds."

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