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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 31 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 05
Ed Murray announces plan to double households getting utility discounts Monarch Candidacy Announcements
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Ed Murray announces plan to double households getting utility discounts Monarch Candidacy Announcements

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer Saying that controlling household expenses are just as important as increasing household incomes, Mayor Ed Murray announced plans to strengthen Seattle's utility discount program and double the number of households participating by 2018.

'I have said all along that, while a living wage is an important piece to addressing the overall affordability crisis we face in this city, it alone is not enough,' Murray said in a statement.

'Wages are growing too slowly, while costs are growing too quickly. As we address the issue of wages, we also need to address these cost issues - including costs for City-provided services. And as we consider difficult but occasionally necessary service rate increases, we must recommit to minimizing the impacts on those who can least afford them.'

About 14,000 Seattle households currently participate in the program which offers discounted city utilities to residents who earn less than 70% of the state median income. Seattle-King County Public Health says that as many as 65,000 households could be eligible for the program, however.

Murray said he has asked the directors of the three departments responsible for overseeing the low-income assistance program - Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, and the Human Services Department - to report back to him in one month with a plan that clarifies the number of eligible residents and improves the City's ability to reach out and enroll more households.

Qualifying households are eligible for discounts of 50 to 60 percent on their city-provided electricity, drinking water, garbage and recycling, sewer, and drainage bills.

A single person could qualify with an income of $30,600, and a couple living together would qualify with a combined income of $40,020. Couples with children or other dependents can refer to a table on the Seattle Human Services department web page to see if they qualify.

Murray said that Seattle City Light has among the lowest electricity rates - and the most robust low-income rate discounts - in the country.

'Without question, this is positive news,' he added. 'But, at a time when Seattle is on the verge of being a city where only the rich can afford to live, we as a City can do better, and we must do better.'

Murray today also announced the launch of a website containing information related to his Income Inequality Advisory Committee, which features a calendar of opportunities for public input in March, including a public meeting with the Seattle City Council's Select Committee on Minimum Wage, an online town hall, and a symposium.

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