California Municipal Utilities Association

The Audacity to Ask: A Bold Request Leads to $2 Billion for Struggling California Utility Customers

In 2021, as impacts from the COVID pandemic intensified, the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) spearheaded a broad coalition of water and energy advocacy organizations that successfully lobbied to secure approximately $2 billion in financial assistance from the state Legislature, with support from the Governor’s office, in order to help Californians who had fallen behind on paying their water and energy utility bills. It might not have come to fruition at all without bold thinking from CMUA’s advocacy staff to aim high and ask for $1 billion even though few organizations initially believed this amount was realistically attainable. The appropriation eventually was doubled and became the starting point for two unusually successful programs that have helped millions of Californians who are struggling financially. The programs — called the California Arrearage Payment Program (CAPP) for energy and the California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Program (CWWAPP) — were implemented despite their massive complexity in less than 12 months, as an idea on paper became an actual state government program that has credited money to the utility accounts of California residents who qualify.