Joining its sister Sempra Energy utility in San Diego, Los Angeles-based Southern California Gas Co.(SoCalGas) reached out to the low-income segment of its nearly 6 million-meter customer base Wednesday to urge customers who qualify to apply for a 20% discount on future monthly retail utility bills.

Like its affiliate, San Diego Gas and Electric Co.(SDG&E), the gas-only utility stressed that there are new income-level requirements for eligibility. All of the major utilities in California have stepped up the outreach to customers potentially eligible for a federal guideline-qualifying, state-sponsored California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program. SoCalGas said it thinks there are as many as 350,000 eligible households, and that about 225,000 households are currently enrolled.

The gas utility — the nation’s largest — said all nonparticipating potentially eligible customers would receive a CARE application with July bills, including a toll-free, multilingual-staffed telephone number to call and/or the website address at which an application can be obtained in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese.

Like SDG&E, SoCalGas is using community service nonprofit organizations to help identify qualified low-income families. Customers may be automatically eligible for the gas bill assistance if they receive benefits from certain women, infant, children and low-income assistance programs.

Each year the California Public Utilities Commission adjusts the maximum qualifying household income levels to reflect changes in federal poverty guidelines. These higher income levels mean that more customers can now qualify, SoCalGas said.

The new levels (with old amounts in parentheses) are: one or two-person households, $30,500 ($29,300); three-person, $35,800 ($34,400); four-person, $43,200 ($41,500); and five-person, $50,600 ($48,600).

©Copyright 2008Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.