Utility Discounts in California for People with Disabilities
Medical Baseline program
California’s energy companies offer a Medical Baseline program for people with disabilities who require additional allocations of electricity or natural gas due to their medical conditions. If your child uses a qualifying medical device (oxygen concentrator, ventilator, feeding pump, CPAP machine, nebulizer, motorized wheelchair, etc.) or requires heating or cooling to prevent exacerbation of certain life-threatening medical conditions, you may be eligible for a discount on your electricity or natural gas bill. Note that this program is not based on financial eligibility; you will only need to establish that your child meets the medical criteria.
What is a Medical Baseline allowance?
Typically, public utilities charge tiered rates based on usage. Every household is allotted a certain amount of electricity or gas at the lowest tier, and then as usage increases, the price per unit increases as well. You can usually see your family’s usage at the different tiered rates by reviewing your utility bill. The Medical Baseline program allocates additional units of energy at the lowest rate so that families aren’t charged premium rates for energy use due to their medical needs.
Families enrolled in the Medical Baseline program will also receive prior notice for any planned power outages so that they have time to make alternative arrangements.
California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) and Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA)
California utilities offer discounted energy rates for families who have lower household incomes or participate in certain public assistance programs, including Medi-Cal. According to the California Public Utilities Commission CARE website, households enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program can get a 20% discount on their natural gas bill. For electricity, the state’s largest companies are required to offer a 30-35% discount to enrollees, while smaller electrical companies may only be required to provide a 20% discount.
In addition to demonstrating eligibility via household income, families can also qualify if someone in the household is enrolled in any of the following public assistance programs:
- Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC)
- Healthy Families A & B
- National School Lunch’s Free Lunch Program (NSL)
- Food Stamps/SNAP
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Head Start Income Eligible (Tribal only)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Tribal TANF
Note: even with proof of enrollment in a public assistance program, some companies may still require eligibility via proof of lower household income as well, so reach out to your local gas company to make sure of their eligibility requirements.
Families whose household income slightly exceeds the CARE requirements, and who have no household members enrolled in public assistance programs, may still be eligible for a discount on their electricity bill through the Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA). This program is based strictly on household income; you can see the income threshold for eligibility on the Public Utilities Commission website.
How do I apply?
Eligible families can be enrolled in the Medical Baseline program and either CARE or FERA. To apply, reach out to your gas and electric companies directly. By calling or visiting their website, you can learn more about eligibility for both programs and obtain the Medical Baseline application that your child’s doctor will need to sign indicating the need for additional energy allocations and whether the condition is temporary or permanent. If the condition is permanent, you will be able to self-certify every two years by filling out the forms they mail you. If the condition is temporary, you will need your child’s doctor to fill out a new form every one to two years depending on the company.
Your utility bill should include a website and a phone number for you to contact. Below are some of the state’s largest utility companies. You can also review a full list of California’s electrical utility companies and natural gas utility companies.
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)
- Phone: 1-800-743-5000
- Hard of Hearing customers with Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDDs) may call California Relay Service at 7-1-1 VISIT
- Websites: PG&E Medical Baseline, PG&E CARE & FERA
Southern California Edison (SCE)
- Phone: 1-800-655-4555
- Website: SCE Medical Baseline, SCE CARE & FERA
So Cal Gas
- Phone: 1-800-427-2200
- Email: MedicalBaselineProgram@socalgas.com
- Website: So Cal Gas Medical Baseline, So Cal Gas CARE Program
San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)
- Phone: 1-866-463-0070
- Website: SDG&E Medical Baseline, SDG&E Payment and Bill Assistance
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP)
- Phone: 1-800-342-5397
- TDD: 1-800-432-7397
- Website: LADWP Assistance Programs
- The LADWP appears to have its own programs and criteria based on the state guidelines, and the Medical Baseline program is divided into a program for life-sustaining devices and a program for heating and cooling needs.
Other programs that may offer discounts based on disability or Medi-Cal enrollment
Affordable Connectivity Program - Participating companies provide discounts on internet service.
- You may be eligible for ACP if you meet the income threshold (income is 200% or less than the Federal Poverty Guideline), if you or someone in your household is in a federal assistance program (SNAP, Medicaid, WIC, etc.), or if you or someone in your household receives a Lifeline benefit.
- To apply for ACP, reach out to your internet company, or apply online.
California Lifeline Program - Participating companies provide discounts on telephone and cellular service.
- You may be eligible for California Lifeline Program if you or someone in your household is enrolled in an eligible public assistance program, or if your household income is at or less than the California LifeLine income limits.
- To apply for the California Lifeline Program, contact your phone company (or call the California LifeLine Call Center if you don’t currently have a home or cell phone service).
Amazon Prime Access - Families may be eligible for discounted membership to Amazon Prime.
- If you receive qualifying government assistance, such as SNAP, Medicaid, WIC, TANF, or NSLP, you are eligible for discounted Amazon Prime Access. Proof of eligibility is required.
- You can apply online.
National Parks Disability Access Pass - The pass grants free access to National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands.
- The Interagency Access Pass is available for U.S. citizens or permanent residents of any age who have a permanent disability that severely limits one or more major life activities. Proof of eligibility is required.
- You can get a pass in person at a federal recreation site, online, or through the mail.
California Department of Parks and Recreation Disabled Discount Pass - A lifetime pass that grants a 50% discount for use of all basic facilities, such as vehicle day use, family camping, and boat use fees, at California State Parks operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
- You may be eligible for the pass if you receive Regional Center services, Social Security disability benefits, or have a DMV permanently disabled status. You can also apply with a doctor’s certification of eligibility. Proof of eligibility is required.
- You can apply for a pass in-person, online, or through a mail-in application. There is a $3.50 application fee.
If you’re a California resident looking for more fun perks for you and your family, we’ve got you covered! Check out this guide from Visit California, which lists tons of activities and attractions that cater to visitors with disabilities, including theme parks, zoos, playgrounds, and museums!