CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 10 percent of West Virginia American Water's customers might be eligible for a discount program the utility company announced the creation of Thursday.
Certain low-income customers would be able to receive a 20 percent discount on their monthly bill, saving about $100 per year, West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan said.
Some customers would pay less than one penny per gallon, company President Jeff McIntyre said in a news release.
The water company filed a petition Thursday asking the West Virginia Public Service Commission to approve the discount program.
If approved, the program would be open to customers who receive Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families-Unemployed Parent Program (TANF-UP) or assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Customers in the SNAP program are eligible if they are 60 or older.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources manages the discounted rate program, which already is offered for electricity and gas utilities, Jordan said.
"Until recently, this program was only available to gas and electric customers through West Virginia law. We recently worked through the legislative process to have this expanded to have it include private water companies," Jordan said. "The Public Service Commission helped us get legislation passed and they're very excited for us, since it's worked well for gas and electricity. We want to make sure we have the same program to help people in the greatest need."
The welcome news will provide eligible customers with more flexibility in their household bills, said Tom Hunter, AARP associate state director of communications.
Many of West Virginia American Water's low-income customers take in less than $1,000 a month, Hunter said. To save money on utility bills, some elderly customers turn off their oxygen machines or forgo purchasing prescriptions. Being able to save money on a necessary utility helps with their struggles, Hunter said.
"You've seen escalation in utility rates all across the board over the past decade," Hunter said. "The decision by West Virginia American Water to provide this low-income rate discount for qualifying customers provides a sense of relief to those ratepayers who have struggled the most."