Long Beach Utilities to set up relief program for high gas bills

Long Beach Utilities is set to launch a natural gas price-spike relief program following City Council action Wednesday to allocate excess utility users tax revenues to help residents struggling to pay high winter gas bills.

The City of Long Beach collects a 5 percent utility users tax, or UUT, on monthly customer bills. When prices go up, tax revenue to the City’s General Fund also increases. The City Council Wednesday agreed to divert any excess funds from this increased revenue to the assistance program.

City officials expect the assistance fund to be about $1.5 million.

With the funds now allocated, Long Beach Utilities will develop a program framework and bring it to the Board of Utilities Commissioners for final approval.

The department plans to get the program up and running as quickly as possible and ensure qualifying residents can easily participate. Program funds are set to become available to residents by mid-February.

“I’m thankful the City Council took this emergency action to allow us to provide assistance to residents in need,” said Gloria Cordero, president of the Board of Utilities Commissioners. “We want to be sure to get this program up and running quickly, with as few barriers as possible, to help our struggling customers feel at ease.”

While final program details and logistics are yet to be finalized, Long Beach Utilities plans to develop the framework with an equity lens to best reach those most in need and help as many people as possible with the resources available. The program will focus on providing financial relief to Long Beach residential customers, particularly those who are low income, disabled and seniors on fixed income.

The Board of Utilities Commissioners is set to hold a special meeting to discuss the program next week. More information about the relief program will be shared as soon as it is available.