Northeast Times

PGW informs some seniors that they’re ineligible for discount

A Castor Gar­dens wo­man who has seen 20 per­cent shaved from her gas bill for the past 10 years now is go­ing to be pay­ing full price.

The wo­man, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, is 75 years old and has been get­ting the Phil­adelphia Gas Works seni­or dis­count since 2004, when she turned 65. The sav­ings were pretty good, she said. More than 60 bucks were cut from one of her re­cent winter bills. 

So why now, after 10 years, is she no longer eli­gible for the seni­or cit­izen dis­count? PGW’s an­swer is the wo­man nev­er should have got­ten the dis­count at all.

The Castor Gar­dens res­id­ent said she re­cently re­ceived a let­ter from PGW that said she is in­eligible for the pro­gram be­cause she was born after Aug. 31, 1938, and that the util­ity isn’t ac­cept­ing any fur­ther ap­plic­a­tions. 

That’s right, PGW spokes­man Barry O’Sul­li­van said April 3. 

When the Pennsylvania Pub­lic Util­ity Com­mis­sion as­sumed reg­u­lat­ory jur­is­dic­tion over the city’s gas works in 2003, it told PGW to stop of­fer­ing the seni­or dis­count, O’Sul­li­van said.

Those who were 65 and get­ting the dis­count re­mained in the pro­gram. The Castor Gar­dens res­id­ent’s hus­band got the dis­count. It was his name that was on the gas bill for the couple’s Long­shore Av­en­ue home. Shortly after her hus­band died in 2004, she turned 65, and du­ti­fully went to a PGW of­fice with proofs of her iden­tity to put her name on her ac­count. While she was at it, she ap­plied for — and got — the seni­or cit­izen dis­count.

The prob­lem now is that she shouldn’t ever have got­ten in­to that pro­gram, O’Sul­li­van said. She simply wasn’t eli­gible then and isn’t eli­gible now. The wo­man was not born be­fore Aug. 31, 1938. Al­though 65 when she ap­plied for the dis­count, she was born in 1939.

Right now, O’Sul­li­van said, about 23,000 of PGW’s roughly half-mil­lion cus­tom­ers are get­ting the seni­or cit­izen dis­count. The oth­er bill pay­ers sub­sid­ize the pro­gram, he said.

Eli­gib­il­ity is tied to age and that 1938 date. There is no in­come eli­gib­il­ity.  

“We check our re­cip­i­ents reg­u­larly, and re­cently ad­ded some en­hance­ments to the way we audit the ac­counts en­rolled in the seni­or dis­count pro­gram,” O’Sul­li­van wrote in an April 4 email to the North­east Times.

Those en­hance­ments, he wrote, sug­ges­ted a couple hun­dred, or not even 1 per­cent, of those dis­count re­cip­i­ents really wer­en’t eli­gible for it. In March, the util­ity star­ted send­ing out let­ters with the bad news to those in­eligible seni­ors. 

“We send each of those cus­tom­ers a let­ter let­ting them know what we’ve dis­covered, and giv­ing them the op­por­tun­ity to up­date the in­form­a­tion we have for them.”

When asked if the new read­ing of the rolls of the dis­coun­ted had any­thing to do with the pro­posed sale of PGW, he said no.

“We do these re­views of­ten, and have been do­ing them for a long time,” he wrote April 4. “We get a little bet­ter each time at en­sur­ing the pro­grams are op­er­at­ing as in­ten­ded.”

O’Sul­li­van ad­ded that PGW wants to make sure people are en­rolled in pro­grams that are best for them. There is a cus­tom­er as­sist­ance pro­gram for low-in­come house­holds that he said is un­der­used.

“We know that a sig­ni­fic­ant num­ber of house­holds that ap­pear to meet eli­gib­il­ity cri­ter­ia have not en­rolled,” he wrote April 4. “Hard to say if they haven’t heard of the pro­gram, or are re­luct­ant to sign up for some reas­on.”

For more in­form­a­tion, vis­it www.pg­works.com •• 

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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