SPOKANE, Wash., Jan. 18 /8 a.m. PST: Avista Corp. (NYSE: AVA) announced today that it has made an additional $350,000 donation to Project Share, an emergency energy assistance fund. This amount is over and above the company’s annual $215,000 donation. Avista funds its contribution to Project Share from shareholder earnings; this does not impact customer rates.
Combined with the $368,000 donated by Avista customers in 2005, as well as donations from other utility customers throughout the region, these dollars will provide energy assistance to approximately 2,000 households in Washington, Idaho and Oregon during this heating season.
Project Share aids households in Washington, Idaho and Oregon that need emergency energy assistance. It provides assistance to pay for any type of heating fuel, including electric, coal, wood, propane and natural gas. The recipient doesn’t have to be an Avista customer. The fund is administered by community action agencies throughout the region as a one-time grant per year to households, given when other avenues of energy assistance have been exhausted.
“As heating costs rise, Avista’s additional donation is welcome news to residents in the region who are experiencing financial dilemmas, especially with heating bills,‿ said Larry Stuckart, executive director of SNAP. “These funds will help organizations like Spokane Neighborhood Action Program (SNAP) to provide funding for households in emergency situations, when all other available assistance has been utilized. This is a real opportunity for all of us to help those in need keep their homes heated in the frigid months of winter.‿
Overall in 2005, contributions to Project Share helped over 3,500 households in the region, with an average grant of $160 per household.
“We certainly recognize the impact that increased energy prices are having on individuals and families in our region, especially on those who have the most difficulty paying their energy bill,‿ said Scott Morris, president of Avista Utilities. “This additional donation to Project Share reflects our commitment to the communities in our region and our deep appreciation for the generosity of our customers in supporting this assistance program.‿
In addition to Project Share, Avista has a number of programs to assist those in need. They include:
· The Low Income Rate Assistance Program (LIRAP) provides approximately
$3 million in energy assistance a year to qualified customers in Washington and Oregon. Last year, it provided assistance to 8,325 Avista customers.
· At the federal level, Avista is supporting the momentum behind an effort to substantially increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which could provide another $1 billion nationally in assistance for our country’s most vulnerable citizens.
· Avista provides low-income energy conservation programs for weatherization, water and space heating appliance upgrades, electric-to-natural gas conversion, and lighting.
· The company also offers Comfort Level Billing as a way to even out what customers pay over the course of the year and rebates for customers who increase energy efficiency in their homes and businesses.
· Avista’s C.A.R.E.S. program (Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Services) offers customers specially trained customer service representatives who provide referrals to area agencies and churches for those experiencing extenuating medical and financial hardships due to health complications, loss of a loved one or loss of steady income. This help may take the form of special payment arrangements, energy management, budgeting advice for other bills, weatherization programs and referrals to assistance agencies. Avista C.A.R.E.S. reps are currently working with over 5,200 special needs customers.
“Even with these programs, we know the numbers of vulnerable customers are increasing, and they will need even more help than what is currently available,‿ according to Morris. “The colder weather will further increase everyone’s energy bill, and, for these customers, that creates real financial difficulty,‿
Avista asks customers who find that they may be having trouble paying their bill to call Avista at 800-227-9187 to talk with a customer service representative who can help them make payment arrangements or refer them to these programs or others for assistance.
Avista Corp. is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities is a company operating division that provides service to 330,000 electric and 285,000 natural gas customers in three western states. Avista’s non-regulated subsidiaries include Avista Advantage and Avista Energy. Avista Corp.’s stock is traded under the ticker symbol “AVA.‿ For more information about Avista, please visit www.avistacorp.com.
Avista Corp. and the Avista Corp. logo are trademarks of Avista Corporation.
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