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Pandemic, higher temps bring increase in energy usage, TEP customers seeking help paying bills

Posted at 6:53 AM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 09:53:08-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - A hotter than normal year, and spending more time at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to higher electric bills for many Tucsonans.

2020 brought Tucson the hottest summer ever, according to the Tucson National Weather Service.

RELATED: 2020 brings Tucson its hottest summer ever

“We do have a few numbers that suggest that the increase in usage is tied to the pandemic," said Joseph Barrios, the spokesperson for Tucson Electric Power.

Barrios told KGUN9 TEP has also seen an increase in usage

“What we saw were increases in residential energy use of about 6 or 7% and then decreases in commercial use of up to 9%," said Barrios.

There have been other increases as well, including the need for help paying electric bills.

“We have seen an increase in the number of customers seeking assistance," Barrios said.

TEP has a program in place called the 'Lifeline Program', which is meant for low-income customers. Barrios told KGUN9 that between January and July of 2020, 9,400 customers renewed or signed up for the program.

Barrios said this is about 800 more customers in the program than last year during this time.

While TEP has programs in place to help customers struggling to pay their bill, there are other organizations helping Tucsonans pay utility bills.

Sandy Adams, who works with Portable Practical Education Preparation said they've had an increase in people seeking help.

“It’s kind of like people are in crisis right now. They’re afraid because the school is done at home now, a lot of people are working from home. If they lose their electricity, their goes everything," said Adams.

TEP has had a suspension of disconnection in place since March, according to Barrios. The suspension was recently extended through the end of the year.

RELATED: TEP will not shut off power, charge late fees to customers through 2020.

Barrios told KGUN9 that TEP customers who are having a difficult time paying their bill should get in contact with TEP for help.

Pima County works with five organizations that help people with utility payments. Below is contact information for those organizations, and when to call to receive help.

Tucson Urban League - (520) 791-9522 X2
Monday through Thursday 8am-11am

Chicanos Por La Causa - (520) 882-0018
Monday through Wednesday 2pm-4pm

Pima County Community Action - (520) 724-2667
Monday through Friday 8:30am-10:30am

Portable Practical Education Preparation - (520) 770-2506
Monday through Friday 1pm-4pm

Interfaith Community Services - (520) 297-6049
Monday through Friday 9am-Until capacity is reached

More on TEP customer assistance programs.