APS, Wildfire launch new tiered-rates, provide HVACs for low-income families

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Wildfire, a statewide non-profit that has worked with over 75 community partners throughout Arizona to provide direct services to low-income families, has partnered with APS to get the word out about a new tiered-rate system that will help lower-income customers to be able to afford their electricity bills in the summer.

“It’s a really innovative program, and Wildfire is always advocating against rate increases for low-income families. But a tiered-rate structure looks to make sure that the most vulnerable in our communities are getting a higher percentage off of their utility bill than perhaps you or I would receive,” said Maxine Becker, an attorney advocate with Wildfire.

This type of advocacy isn’t new for the organization, Becker said, which has been aiding those in poverty in Arizona since its inception in 1967.

“Wildfire for many years has worked with all of the state’s utility organizations to provide bill assistance to low-income families who need help paying their bills throughout the year. So that is something we’ve done for decades,” said Becker.

Anyone interested in seeing if they’re eligible for the discount rates can visit the energy-support page on APS’ website, and it will provide details on how to enroll in the program.

Kelly McGowan, the Executive Director of Wildfire, joined us as well. McGowan spoke about how Wildfire recently raised over $2 million worth of HVAC systems to donate to people in need.

“We had close to 600 heat-related deaths last year, and we know that while most of those are happening outside, over 25% of people are dying from heat-related illnesses in their homes. And often times that’s because of an inoperable AC system. So, we’ve worked with our utility partners and wonderful foundations and individuals across the state to raise money to replace those units,” said McGowan.

Wildfire, with the assistance of Becker, were also able to pass a policy preventing landlords at mobile home parks from disallowing their tenants to install cooling methods.

“What we learned from amazing research at ASU was that there were a disproportionate number of indoor deaths from mobile homes. So, in Arizona and in Maricopa County, about 5% of the housing stock are mobile homes. But almost 40% of our indoor deaths were happening inside mobile homes, and so ASU, with mobile homeowners, started to unravel that, and one of the reasons: Landlords weren’t allowing homeowners to put things like a window air conditioner in their home or a sunshade,” explained Becker.

“So, at Wildfire, we took that up and thought that was a really important policy to pursue. And we were able to get that bill passed unanimously through our Arizona legislature,” continued Becker.

With the $2 million worth of HVACs the organization has been able to collect, they estimate they will be able to help at least 150 households in the state throughout the next three years.

Kelly McGowan, Executive Director, Wildfire
Maxine Becker, Attorney Advocate, Wildfire

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