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2010 CARE Recertification and Post-Enrollment Verification (PEV) Non-Response Study. Report of Findings November, 2010. Prepared for:. Mr. Kevin Sharp Customer Insights 415.973.5651 [email protected] Prepared by:. 370 N. Westlake Blvd., Suite 140 Westlake Village, CA 91362 805.379.0774

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2010 care recertification and post enrollment verification pev non response study

2010 CARE Recertification and Post-Enrollment Verification (PEV) Non-Response Study

Report of FindingsNovember, 2010

Prepared for:

Mr. Kevin Sharp

Customer Insights


[email protected]

Prepared by:

370 N. Westlake Blvd., Suite 140

Westlake Village, CA 91362







INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES…………………….…………………………………………………………………… 2

METHODOLOGY……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 2

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY…………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 4



OVERALL IMPRESSIONS OF THE CARE PROGRAM………………………………………………………………….. 20


COMMUNICATIONS FROM PG&E……………………………………………………………………………………….. 26

CARE PROGRAM TERMINATION………………………………………………………………………………………… 30

PROCESS ENHANCEMENTS……………………………………………………………………………………………… 38

APPENDIX…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 42






Among the various customer programs offered by Pacific Gas and Electric is CARE (California Alternate Rates for Energy). This program provides income qualified households with a monthly discount on their utility bill.

  • At each of two customer touchpoints in particular, the CARE program experiences churn:
    • At Recertification, which occurs every two to four years
      • Despite mailings and IVR reminder calls from PG&E, about 18% of participants are failing to recertify.
    • At Post Enrollment Verification (PEV), which affects 4% of CARE participants annually
      • Here again, PG&E reaches out with multiple phone calls and mailed reminders, but nearly half of those targeted fail to respond.

PG&E commissioned qualitative primary research to better understand the reasons for losing customers at each touchpoint.

Specific informational objectives include:

  • Uncovering the root causes that lead to customers being dropped from the program at the point of recertification and/or when providing proof of income
  • Identifying ways PG&E can overcome barriers to recertification/PEV fulfillment
  • Determining how to make processes even easier – so qualifying customers can obtain and retain their CARE discount.


The most suitable method of data collection among this population was determined to be the one-on-one interview. The interviews were conducted in-language among three segments: English, Spanish and Chinese speaking. Travis Research utilized seasoned executive level interviewers to screen respondents and conduct the discussions.


INTRODUCTION (continued)


Lists of names and contact information of former CARE members were provided by PG&E in two files: Non-Recertifiers and PEV (Post Enrollment Verification) Non-Responders. The lists were further divided by Spanish and Chinese surnames to facilitate the screening.


Potential respondents were screened on the following:

  • At least jointly responsible for reviewing and paying the household’s energy bills
  • Minimum age of 18
  • Household was formerly enrolled in CARE but is currently neither enrolled nor receiving the monthly discount
  • No household member has ever worked for PG&E
  • In addition, Spanish and Chinese respondents were screened to ensure they were most comfortable speaking their native language. (All respondents speak it exclusively or at least most of the time.)


Interviews were conducted from August 19 - October 7, 2010. Below is the distribution by language and CARE categories:

  • The discussion guide was developed jointly by PG&E and Travis Research.
  • All interviews were audiotaped and are on file at PG&E
  • Spanish and Chinese interviews were back-translated into English
  • Interviews were 15-30 minutes in length.

NOTE: Qualitative interviews seek to develop insight and direction rather than to provide quantitatively precise or absolute findings. This is due to the limited size of the sample of respondents and the means by which they are recruited. It must be understood that the results reported here are qualitative in nature and not necessarily projectable to a larger population.



Summarized below are key findings from the CARE Recertification and Post-Enrollment Verification (PEV) Non-Response qualitative study recently completed among former program participants.


  • Customers typically hear about the CARE program from PG&E sources: bill insert, representatives at a payment center, or telephone customer service.
  • The bill insert has the greatest impact overall. English speaking respondents report this method most often.
    • Chinese participants often cite in-language media sources.
    • Spanish language customers mention learning from interactions with PG&E representatives.
  • Word of mouth from family and friends is also an important source of awareness.

Application Process

  • More so than any other method, respondents say they applied for the program through the mail.
  • Other methods include…
    • in person at the payment centers  especially among Hispanics.
    • over the phone  particularly among Chinese.
    • the online process.
  • The application form for enrollment in the CARE program is generally considered clear and easy to understand.
    • Only a few customers report needing help to complete the application.



Timeline of Participation

  • PEV respondents who have not heard back from PG&E in direct response to their original application are often unsure about their status as participants.
    • Several who recently applied say they have not heard from PG&E about their original application leaving them unsure as to whether they are participants at this point.
    • Many more PEV customers were terminated in the research screening based on their perception that they were never in the CARE program. They explain that they received no response from the utility and concluded that their application was disqualified. The request for income verification is perceived as questioning their eligibility.
  • Non-Recertifiers typically say they were in the program for a few years.


  • Except for regret that they no longer qualify, former CARE participants are enthusiastically positive toward the program, in general, and the money savings, specifically.



Perceived Qualifications

  • Customers’ recall of program guidelines is fairly limited.
    • All are aware that the program is geared to low income households and has maximum income levels that cannot be exceeded.
    • About half mention that income tiers are based to the number of members in the household.
    • A few know that the discount is 20%; others guess wide of the mark (ranging from 10% to 50%).
  • There is also occasional confusion between the CARE guidelines and those of other programs such as Medical Baseline Assistance and Energy Partners.

Perceptions of Program Length

  • There is low to moderate awareness of the length of time one can remain in the CARE Program.
    • Awareness tends to be lower among PEV respondents. By ethnicity: six of the eight PEV Chinese respondents say they are unaware of the program length.
  • Several believe customers can participate as long as they meet the program guidelines.
  • Others report CARE participants are asked to recertify every one to two years, but there is no limit on the number of times recertification can occur.



Recall of Overall Communication Process

  • Communication with PG&E is most often accomplished by mail.
  • Telephone calls by customers span a wide variety of issues, while PG&E calls typically involve program participation encouragement.
    • Non-Recertifiers (mostly English speakers) also recall IVR phone messages reminding them to return the application.
    • A few others remember phone conversations with PG&E regarding the need for additional forms and other customer service issues.

Recall of Recertification/Income Verification Process

  • Most customers remember receiving the recertification/income verification notice via mail.
    • As mentioned, some also received IVR calls reminding them to return the forms.
  • One or two claim they never saw the information and were subsequently dropped.

Clarity of Communication

  • The PG&E forms used by CARE participants to recertify are clear and understandable.
    • Only a few (more often Spanish-speaking) have difficulties.
  • Respondents understand what is requested in the PEV letter, however, many are resistant to the number of documents requested.



Reasons No Longer in the Program

  • The primary reason the forms are not returned is that the household’s financial situation has changed and no longer meets the program requirements.
    • New-found employment, increased income, an empty nest and marriage are among the reasons given for the altered status.
  • As for the customers who must verify their income, there is a great deal of angst associated with sharing financial documents, notably:
    • The information may be mishandled
    • If the application is rejected, one may suffer a penalty or embarrassment
    • Reporting inaccurate information could cause legal troubles (amore prevalent perception among Hispanics).
  • Some customers fear that participation in CARE may jeopardize other governmental assistance:
    • There is fear of repercussions from releasing financial information.
  • The bills are too small to bother returning the form.
    • Since the energy bill is modest, it is preferable to conserve rather than accept aid.



Reasons Paperwork Not Submitted to PG&E

  • Customers do not return the forms if they know they do not qualify for the program.
    • Some add that they are lazy, can’t be bothered or they misplaced the form.
  • More importantly, many say they have returned the form, but have not received a response from PG&E.
    • Several report sending the form more than once and by different means.
  • PEV respondents encounter several obstacles to returning the financial documents:
    • Gathering the multiple documents is time consuming
    • Tax returns are not available
    • Self-employment makes the paper trailmore difficult
    • It’s daunting to gather income information from multiple household members
    • Medical and family problems take priority
    • There is fear of repercussions from releasing financial information.

Inducements to Complete Paperwork

  • Many customers would like to know whether their application has been received. When hearing nothing, many deduce they have been rejected and do not reapply.
    • If they do not receive acknowledgment of their application and the request for income documents arrives, they may assume the information they provided on the initial application is being called into question.
  • Live phone calls with more explanation about the need for the financial information would encourage some to return the forms.
  • A few respondents were hurriedly enrolled in the program by a telephone survey or a rep at their door and would like more information about the program itself.



Making Recertification/PEV Easier

  • There is consensus that the language/style of the forms is not a barrier to recertification.
  • That said, customers offer suggestionsto improve the overall process:
    • Provide more personal attention/explanation to those who are not literate (especially the Non-English speaking) and the elderly
    • Promote telephone recertification. It is easy and customers would know PG&E has the necessary information
    • Encourage the online tool for the same reasons as above
    • Make the envelope containing the forms more distinctive to grab attention
    • Put the recertification notice literally on the bill, in an obvious location.

Persuading Participants to Continue with CARE

  • The following ideas are offered by respondents as possible remedies to non-compliance:
    • Reduce the number of documents required to verify income or accept alternative documents
    • Assure participants the documents will be secure
    • Raise the maximum income levels
    • Advertise more in the Chinese media (e.g., Chinese radio, TV, newspaper)
    • Create video testimonials and use them in the media and online.



Based on the research findings, we recommend that PG&E consider taking the following action:

  • Ensure that customers receive notification that the CARE-related materials they submitted have been received, and subsequently, whether they have been accepted or disqualified
    • Provide clarification to PEV customers with regard to the status of their application when income verification information is being requested
  • Broaden the list of documents that are acceptable proof of income
  • Provide more explanation why additional financial documentation is requested and the security measures utilized to protect the customer’s privacy
  • Re-engineer the PG&E bill to make the CARE discount more prominent, adding a note when recertification is near
  • Promote the use of online and IVR recertification.

Finally, because apprehension is greatest among low income Hispanics,redouble efforts among this group with…

  • Bi-lingual service reps strategically placed in payment centers to intercept bill payers.
  • In-language testimonials recorded and used as an IVR.
  • The exploration of a pilot program using targeted live calls to answer questions and overcome objections.
  • Promotion of the existing helpline telephone number emphasizing the availability of Spanish-speaking representatives.


Initial Awareness and Enrollment in the CARE Program

Overall Impressions of the CARE Program

Respondents’ Understanding of Program Guidelines

Communications from PG&E

CARE Program Termination

Process Enhancements



How Respondents Became Aware of CARE

  • PG&E is the most frequent source of CARE program awareness: an insert in the monthly energy bill, PG&E employees at a local payment center or PG&E telephone customer service.

“I called (PG&E) because my bill was so high. It was never that high (before) and I didn’t know how to pay it. The lady on the phone told me about the program and said if I qualified it would help me.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

  • In addition:
  • One respondent mentions receiving a phone call she surmises was from PG&E

“Someone called doing a survey. They said I was just randomly chosen. They qualified me over the phone.” (English PEV)

  • Another learned through a PG&E repre-sentative canvassing her neighborhood

“We just moved into the neighborhood and our bills were pretty high. A man came to our door and told us about the program. We filled the application out together…” (English PEV)

  • Others say they saw a brochure at a street fair or were led to the PG&E program by the welfare department or even H&R Block.

“I was in Chinatown and I passed by a fair and they had information. We got the brochures and then applied.” (Chinese PEV)

“The welfare department referred me. Last year they sent me something I didn’t understand. So I made a phone call.” (Chinese PEV)



How Respondents Became Aware of CARE (continued)

  • There are some noteworthy differences by ethnicity:
  • English speaking respondents tend to learn initially through a bill insert describing the CARE program.

“I think it came in the bill. It was an insert in the bill explaining the program. It came several times and finally I read it.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • Chinese respondents often cite in-language media sources such as Chinese TV, radio, and newspapers. The media is not a source of awareness for any other segment.

“I heard about it on Chinese TV. I called PG&E and they sent me a form.” (Chinese PEV)

“I went online when I heard about it on the radio, Chinese radio.” (Chinese PEV)

  • Spanish respondents are more likely to pay their bill in person and find out about CARE and the discount at that time. Some say they were late on their bill or were unable to pay all of it, so the PG&E representative suggested the possible assistance.

“I learned when I went to the office to pay my bill. They asked me how much I earned and they wanted to see a W2 form. Then they told me if I had money in a 401K I wouldn’t qualify. I do have money in a 401K, but I qualified anyway.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

“I got a bill for $300 and I couldn’t pay it all. I went to the office (PG&E). They said I might qualify.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • Friends and family are also common sources of awareness across the three cultures.

“I heard about it from my relatives. (Interviewer: How did they talk about it?) They said you can save 20%. I applied.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

“My dad told me about it. He got the notice in his bill and he thought I might qualify.” (English Non-Recertification)



Application Process

  • A majority of CARE customers complete the application and return it via mail.

“I just filled out the form and sent it in. I started to get discounts. Then every year or so they sent me another one that I filled out and sent in.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • Other methods include:
  • A phone call with PG&E representative assistance

“I didn’t apply the first time I saw it. I have always been able to take care of myself, but when someone from PG&E called, I applied over the phone.” (English PEV)

  • Chinese customers most often report applying over the phone. They also volunteer that they were able to do so in Chinese. It is not clear whether the process was live or IVR.

“We applied over the phone. I never saw the people or the form.” (Chinese PEV)

“I applied over the phone. (Interviewer: In Chinese?) Of course in Chinese because I don’t speak English. (Interviewer: What did they ask?) They asked about how much income (I had) from work…if it’s low then PG&E provides help.” (Chinese PEV)

  • In person at the PG&E payment center.
  • More Hispanics say they apply via this method. (Availability of Spanish speakers at customer service counters is apparently hit or miss.)

“I didn’t know how to fill it out well. The office helped me. I filled out the form and then I noticed I was getting a discount on my bill. They helped me but not all places have people who speak Spanish. I don’t read.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)



Application Process (continued)

  • Although a few customers use the online application tool, one woman finds the process complex.

(Interviewer: Was it easy?) “No, it was difficult online. The steps were complicated. It took so long to go from one step to another. I requested they send me a form by mail. They sent (it) in English and Chinese; it was easy.” (Chinese PEV)

  • A majority finds the original application clear and not confusing. When probed, they remember it being in multiple languages and fairly simple.

“The first form was simple, just a check, check, check.” (Chinese PEV)

“It was about two years ago (Interviewer: How easy was it?) They were in Spanish and they were easy to understand. I had no problem filling them out.” (Spanish PEV)

  • A few (all Non-English speaking) say they asked for assistance from a family member or another person to complete the application.

“My daughter helped me fill it out.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

“My sister helped me. I trust her.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • Spanish respondents seem to have the most difficulty.

“I think they sent me something in the mail…really don’t remember. I think I took it to the PG&E office and filled it out in person. They helped me some.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • One woman shares that she is unable to read or write.


Timeline of Participation

  • Self-reported tenure in the program ranges from 5-6 years on down to just one or two months.
    • The average tenure for the Non-Recertifiers is about two years; for PEV respondents it is less than a year.
  • Two respondents mention experiences in the CARE program years prior. They have no memory of recently enrolling.

“I was in the program for two years around 1994-1996. I didn’t pay attention, so I don’t know when I was dropped. I’m not sure. There was another form that came that said you had to report your income.” (Spanish PEV)

  • Though not specifically asked, most customers perceive that they have been out of the program for a period ranging from several months to a year. The sample was purposely cleaned to remove those whose participation was further in the past.
  • Due to their shorter tenure, several PEV respondents are confused about their enrollment – “Am I enrolled or not?” They explain that they are unsure because they did not receive a response from PG&E regarding the original application, only the request for income documents.

“I sent in the original form but never heard anything. I thought PG&E looked at the original form and thought we made too much money. I didn’t get a discount. Then we got the request for the income.” (English PEV)

“I sent in the form…the first application, but didn’t hear anything. I don’t think I got the discount. I may have because our bills have gone down and then up again. But I heard nothing from PG&E.” (English PEV)

“I sent the form by mail and heard nothing. Then I faxed it, finally I took it to the PG&E office, but I still have not heard that I am in the program.” (Spanish PEV)



Timeline of Participation (continued)

  • A few Non-Recertifiers report similar experiences – i.e., they indicate that they returned the application form and are not certain they received the discount on their bill. Without communication from the utility, they surmise that their application must have been lost or that they no longer qualify.

“I sent in the form, but I but didn’t hear anything from them.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • It is also important to note that during the screening process for this study, many potential respondents were terminated without being interviewed because they indicated that they were never in the CARE program. Here again, they claim to have sent in the original application but never received any confirmation from PG&E. Some indicate they sent the form more than once.


Initial Awareness and Enrollment in the CARE Program

Overall Impressions of the CARE Program

Respondents’ Understanding of Program Guidelines

Communications from PG&E

CARE Program Termination

Process Enhancements



  • The overall impression of the program is quite positive. Respondents see its fundamental benefit as being the discount on the bill. Participants say they are happy because it alleviates some financial pressure and frees up money that can be used for other expenses.

“It reduces our burden. You can save on the power bill. When you are 90 years old like my mother you have to be warm. I don’t have to skimp on food and clothing.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

“It’s good for me because I’m really struggling. I have cancer and can’t work much. I made less than $25,000 last year.” (English PEV)

“In these financial times it’s hard to heat your home if you don’t have the money. It helps.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • The only perceived disadvantages to the program are feelings of regret among customers who no longer qualify.

(Interviewer: What are the disadvantages to the program?) “Only that my enrollment has not been renewed.” (Spanish PEV)

“They are wasting money sending me more notices. I told them I no longer qualify. I would like to save the money but they don’t give it (the discount) to me now.” (Chinese PEV)

  • A few, however, suggest the income tier ceilings are too low.

“It’s their selection process. Who gets to sign up for it and who doesn’t? They dropped us because they said we were making too much even though we’re unemployed. They decided our income was too high. I still can’t pay the bill.” (English PEV)

“Maybe that it doesn’t reach out to more people; there are maximum incomes....” (English Non-Recertification)

  • One is disappointed that her household doesn’t qualify because of multiple income earners.

“I have cousins living in the house and the four of them were not able to qualify.” (Spanish PEV)

(When probed, it became unclear whether the combined income is too high, or that the income documents were unattainable.)



Initial Awareness and Enrollment in the CARE Program

Overall Impressions of the CARE Program

Respondents’ Understanding of Program Guidelines

Communications from PG&E

CARE Program Termination

Process Enhancements



How Program is Described

  • Respondents are unable to describe the CARE program in any detail except to say it provides a discount on energy bills for low income households.

“I know it’s for people with low income. It helps you pay your gas and electric bill. It’s something that’s going to help them.” (Spanish PEV)

  • A few confuse the CARE program with the Medical Baseline Assistance. In these households there is considerable confusion between the requirements of both programs.

“It’s for families with children. We had our grandchildren bounce back to us and we are struggling with bills. One of our grandsons has a medical disability. I think it’s the CARE program. There are two categories. One is strictly financial and one is for households with disabilities.” (English PEV)

  • Others mention the Energy Partners program (though not by name) and recall PG&E making improvements to their home – e.g., weather stripping, caulking and possibly a new refrigerator.

“A while ago I heard about the program. They were going to come and check my house out to see how I can save energy. It was two years ago. They gave me a refrigerator. They showed me how to seal the windows.” (Spanish PEV)

“Someone called and said they were going to be in the neighborhood. They wanted to come and check out my house. Check the windows and things like that.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • There is also some confusion as to the amount of the CARE discount. While a few correctly describe the discount as 20%, others say 10% or as much as 50% is subtracted from the energy bill.

“I think they subtract about 50%.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)



Perceived Qualifications

  • About half of respondents understand the program has tiers of maximum income levels.

“For people with low incomes and tenants with higher incomes it can assist. The rules I don’t have memorized. If the income is low enough you qualify.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

“It has to do with income. (Interviewer: Only income?) Yes, you have to be below a certain amount.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • The remainder associates the income levels with the number of people in the household.

“You have to have low or middle income. I think it was $20,000 for a certain amount of people. It goes up as there are more people in the house.” (Chinese PEV)

  • Few are able to cite the accurate qualifying income levels. Some say it’s “around $30,000 per year,” while others believe it is in the range of $20,000-$26,000 for a one person household.

“You have to be making under $25,000 for one person.” (English Non-Recertification)

“You qualify by income… if your income is low enough. (Interviewer: How low?) I think it was about $30,000.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

  • No other qualification guidelines are cited, although a couple customers feel PG&E encourages those in the program to save energy.

“I thought that if you saved energy from last year, they reward you, like being a good citizen. It’s good.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)



Perceptions of Program Length

  • A significant number of respondents (especially PEV) are unaware of the length one can stay in the program. These customers tend to have shorter tenures in CARE. It is logical that the customers with the least amount of experience in the program would have lower awareness of the CARE program details.
    • Interestingly, six of the eight Chinese respondents from the PEV sample were unable to verbalize a program length.
  • Some customers say that participation is indefinite as long as their income qualifies.

“Up until my income exceeds the standard. I have a full time job.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • The typical feedback of Non-Recertification respondents is that they can stay one or two years, but then have to recertify.

“You can participate 2-3 years. But then you have to recertify.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

  • However, some feel that there is no limit on the number of times you can recertify.

“I don’t think there is a limit. I think the program is good as long as your income qualifies.” (English Non-Recertification)

“It’s for life. I can’t tell you for sure. Maybe it’s for life.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)



Initial Awareness and Enrollment in the CARE Program

Overall Impressions of the CARE Program

Respondents’ Understanding of Program Guidelines

Communications from PG&E

CARE Program Termination

Process Enhancements



Recall of Communication Process

  • After the initial application is submitted, communication with PG&E is accomplished most often by mail.

“They sent me things through the mail. (Interviewer: What did they send?) I don’t remember.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • Some respondents do not remember any communication.

“I don’t go through all the mail. Some of it is thrown away. I’m not really sure. I really don’t remember seeing anything.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • A number of Non-Recertifiers recall receiving communication through the mail as well as IVR phone messages. Non-English speakers are less likely to report receiving the recorded phone calls.

“They sent me several applications through the mail. Then when I didn’t return them, they called me with recorded messages. I finally called PG&E and asked them to stop because I no longer qualified. It took several months before I was dropped.” (English Non-Recertification)

“I got lots of phone calls asking me to re-enroll.” (English Non-Recertification)

“I did receive some phone calls a few months ahead of recertifying.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • A few remember speaking directly to a PG&E representative. Sometimes it was an outbound call from PG&E, while in other cases the customer instigated the call.

“Someone called and asked me why I didn’t return the form and I said because my kids aren’t here and I am paying less (for energy).” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

“They called to see if I applied. The person who called did not speak much Spanish. She asked me about my household. (Interviewer: What else?) How much money I made.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

“When I didn’t hear I called and asked if they had received my application.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)



Recall of Recertification/Income Verification Information

  • Nearly all respondents recall receiving the recertification/income verification communication, typically via the mail.

“I received a letter that I had to provide some income information and then I felt my income did not qualify so I didn’t send it in.” (Chinese PEV)

“I received the recertification form twice. I am no longer qualified. I called (PG&E) more than once. Your qualifications are not reasonable. (Interviewer: What do you mean?) The income.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

  • Some recall that the communica-tion was in the form of a postcard; others say it was a letter.

“They sent a letter to ask me to apply. I don’t remember anything that was in it except they wanted me to send more information.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

“We got nothing through the mail until this letter came requesting the documents. It asked for gross income, the number in the household….” (English PEV)

“I don’t really remember; it was over a year ago. I think it was a postcard application.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • As mentioned previously, some received calls from PG&E encouraging continued participation and, subsequently, additional forms were sent to those needing them.
  • One respondent recalls receiving an automated call that provided the option of saying “yes” or “no” to recertification.
  • On the other hand, there are one or two who claim they never received the recertification communication and as a result were dropped.

“They said I would be getting an application every year to re-qualify. It comes without me even asking. I’ve never had to gather any information. They didn’t send it to me this year. My contract is usually up around June. For the past 4-5 months my bill came high. I called and they sent me an application. I filled it out and returned it right away but I heard nothing. I sent them three applications.” (Spanish PEV)



Clarity of Communications

  • As with the original application, recertification forms are recalled as being rather straightforward (and printed in multiple languages).
  • Respondents with longer duration in the program are naturally more familiar with the recertification process.
  • Only a few respondents say they were challenged.

“It came in both languages…a little confusing. Filled out whatever I could. (Interviewer: What could you not fill out?) When they ask about whether family members are involved in other programs.” (Spanish PEV)

“No, it wasn’t clear. It was in Chinese (and) some (questions) I could understand, some I could not.” (Chinese PEV)

  • The request for additional income verification is not as well-received, however.
  • Respondents recall the letter arriving, and while most understand the concept, they do push back at the number of income verification documents required.

“They said later that I had to provide proof of income. I didn’t understand. I called PG&E and couldn’t get through. The unemployment said you are in this bracket and can enjoy these programs.” (Chinese PEV)

  • Though not the prevailing theme of the majority of respondents, one woman who is dealing with multiple benefit programs expresses her frustration with the wording of the PEV document.

“Put your requests in English. Not governmental lingo. Make it easier.” (English PEV)



Initial Awareness and Enrollment in the CARE Program

Overall Impressions of the CARE Program

Respondents’ Understanding of Program Guidelines

Communications from PG&E

CARE Program Termination

Process Enhancements



Reasons No Longer in the Program

  • The majority of respondents not recertifying say they simply no longer qualify because of a higher income. Primary reasons include:
  • The formerly unemployed are now working

“I was unemployed for about a year but now I have income. (Interviewer: Did you check the tables or just assume?) Once I heard the recorded phone message that listed the brackets, I knew I was over.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • The number of people living in the household is lower due to children moving out or the death of a parent or spouse resulting in an income/household ratio too high to qualify

“I’m not qualified because my kids don’t live here anymore and my income is too high. So I try to save money on gas and food.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • Marriage has increased the household income

“I got married and now he is a part of my household. We don’t qualify any longer.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • Recent immigrants have found employment and no longer need the assistance.

“When I first came to the country I had only part-time work. Now I have full-time.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)



Reasons No Longer in the Program (continued)

  • Other reasons mentioned are:
  • Apprehension the information may be mishandled
  • Particularly among the Hispanic population, a fear that reporting inaccurate information may result in legal problems

“When I filled it out, it made me think I may have legal problems. (Interviewer: Why is that?) I don’t think I qualify because my four kids are gone from the house. If I apply and don’t qualify, PG&E might think I lied.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • Apprehension that participation in CARE will jeopardize benefits from other program sources

“We are trying to get the medical benefit because our son is on a respirator at night. We applied for CARE too and got the benefit, but now they are asking for all this information. I haven’t sent in the income documents; I am confused about what to do.” (English PEV)

  • Although not interviewed for the study, one customer expressed the concern some immigrants feel when dealing with a governmental agency

“Being offered a discount on service like utilities puts a scare in you...because (you) wonder if by accepting this assistance it can jeopardize other assistance you get, like low income housing or other programs. No one tells you how or if this will affect (it) so often you take a leap of faith and apply, but it isn’t without a certain level of apprehension.” (Screened from Spanish surname Non-Recertification sample)



Reasons No Longer in the Program (continued)

  • Energy bills are lower and the benefit is too small for the bother

“My bills are pretty small now. I don’t know but if the bills were higher I would try to qualify. (Interviewer: How high?) Maybe $150.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • One Hispanic woman feels more comfortable conserving energy than accepting aid

“I just try to economize. I use the fan instead of the AC, I wash clothes at night, open the windows in the evening. I don’t want to get in trouble for accepting aid.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • PG&E didn’t receive enough information.

(Interviewer: Why do you think you are no longer in the program?) “Probably because I didn’t give them enough information. They haven’t asked for more. (Interviewer: Would you fill out the form again?) Of course if it meant it would lower our bill.” (English PEV)

Reasons PEV/Recertification Paperwork Not Submitted to PG&E

  • Regardless of the type of application that was sent, some customers simply ignore it because they believe they no longer qualify.

“I didn’t lie on my application. I just didn’t fill out the application because I didn’t think I qualified. Why should I bother?” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • After reviewing the household size and income thresholds (provided on the recertifying document), some realize they do not qualify, while others just surmise they do not qualify because their economic situation has improved.

“I just assumed my income was too high. My monthly income increased $1,100 a month because I’m renting out two rooms. I could have just sent the paperwork back in because in four years they have never verified my income, but those things tend to come back and bite you.” (English Non-Recertification)

“I received a letter that I had to provide some income information and then I felt my income did not qualify so I didn’t send it in.” (Chinese PEV)



Reasons PEV/Recertification Paperwork Not Submitted to PG&E (continued)

  • A few give general excuses such as laziness, misplaced paperwork, or simply being too busy.

“I was busy with other things and I didn’t fill the form out. I have to take care of my kids and work around here.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

“I did not fill out a form to requalify. (Interviewer: Why not?) I’m lazy I guess.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • A significant number have returned the form but have not received a response from PG&E.

“Yes, I filled it out. I never heard anything back. I sent it back and I am still waiting.” (Spanish PEV)

“I sent the form in with all the paperwork. I called PG&E and they said they hadn’t received it. Last month, I got a really high bill. It came to $150. We went to PG&E and they sent us another form.” (Spanish PEV)

  • For the PEV customers, the reasons are more specific:
  • Assembling all the documents, making copies and submitting them is time-consuming

“I think they could approach it differently. (Interviewer: What do you mean?) It takes a lot of time…I don’t want to use a lot of time.” (Chinese PEV)

“There are too many forms to fill out. You fill out the first form then they send you more. It’s too much.” (Chinese PEV)



Reasons PEV/Recertification Paperwork Not Submitted to PG&E (continued)

  • Tax forms are not readily available because either they filed an extension and documents are not yet obtainable, or in one case, they were lost

“My taxes aren’t done. I filed an extension. When I have them I’ll apply again.” (English PEV)

“My income tax forms. I cannot find it. I can’t fill in the income forms.” (Spanish PEV)

  • Reporting annual income when both household members are self-employed is thorny

“We’re self-employed and it’s hard to come up with the documents…the paperwork trail is difficult.” (English PEV)

  • In a multiple person household, it is difficult to obtain income documents from members who file separately

“First of all, the form should be simpler. The requirement of the income tax is hard to get for the other people in the family. They are not always present so it’s hard.” (English PEV)

“You have to provide income, how many live in the house, all this personal information. I don’t want to give all this information. I would have to discuss income with all the people in the house.” (Spanish PEV)

(Interviewer: Could you make the process easier?) “Definitely! (How?) For the family members’ monthly income, just take the paystubs of (the) last one or two months.” (Chinese PEV)

  • Personal problems such as surgery, illness, or family problems, push back its priority

“I had to have surgery. My heart was not good, and I forgot about it.” (Chinese PEV)

“I was diagnosed with cancer and getting all these documents together is just exhausting.” (English PEV)



Reasons PEV/Recertification Paperwork Not Submitted to PG&E (continued)

  • Some respondents simply do not want their personal income information to be made public

“I was scared. Maybe it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. I don’t like to deal with things that excite me.” (English PEV)

“The income request is okay…but there is a lot of personal info. If you give it, it may not be used correctly.” (Chinese PEV)

  • As alluded to previously, others (largely Hispanic) say that if the income documents do not match what they reported previously they may be penalized (fined) or subjected to further investigation. They do not want any negative attention put on the household

“The program is a good offering...people’s lives change and may not need the help anymore. I like to be self-sufficient. I don’t like to try new things. I’m kind of afraid. What if I don’t qualify? I don’t want to be in trouble with the law. No legal hassles.” (Spanish Non-Recertification)

  • A few are just disgruntled at having to submit information they heretofore did not have to supply.

“They did ask about income. (Interviewer: Did you send?) Yes they asked me for my Social Security number and I don’t have one.” (Spanish PEV)



Possible Inducements to Complete Paperwork

  • A major discovery is that respondents are not being notified when the applications have been received.
  • If they hear nothing, they assume their application has been disqualified or they have done something wrong, even possibly that their paperwork has been misplaced. In any case, they are hesitant to reapply.

“I sent it out but never received a response. I didn’t make a phone call because I don’t speak English.” (Chinese PEV)

“I’ve done everything they have asked me to do to qualify. But they must not care about their work. I don’t think they are doing their job. (Interviewer: Do they speak Spanish?) Yes, I can communicate with them. Language is not a barrier. They are not following through with the paperwork. I’ve answered everything...the application is not a problem.” (Spanish PEV)

  • Although the program has already instituted IVR calls to non-responders, some customers still suggest a phone call as a possible encouragement to recertify.
  • Preferably from a live person.

“If someone had called and talked to me about it, it would have helped.” (English PEV)

“People don’t have time. People who are low income don’t know how to read or write. By phone it would be easier. Call and explain the program. Many people think (that because) they are illegal (they) won’t qualify. Mexicans are used to having things explained to them. But they also have dignity and don’t like to ask for help.” (Spanish PEV)

  • Some would like to have more information about the CARE program itself.

“I enrolled after a telephone survey. I really don’t know that much about the program except the person on the phone said I qualified.” (English PEV)



Initial Awareness and Enrollment in the CARE Program

Overall Impressions of the CARE Program

Respondents’ Understanding of Program Guidelines

Communications from PG&E

CARE Program Termination

Process Enhancements



Making Recertification/PEV Easier

  • A majority of non-recertifying customers say the forms themselves are painless but that their household no longer qualifies for the program.
  • Some would like to see recertification over the phone. (Some have already accomplished it.)

“If you have not received a response for the form, you should call that person. Sometimes things are lost in the mail.” (Chinese PEV)

  • A few have used the Internet. Having more information about how to use the web form would be helpful.
  • A couple suggest making the recertification form more visually distinctive so it is less likely to be discarded.

“If you send a letter make it special…with a big CARE envelope.” (Chinese PEV)

“Put ‘CARE Status’ or ‘Time to Renew’ on the envelope so it doesn’t look like junk mail.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • Another respondent suggestion is for the recertification notice to be included directly on the bill for greater visibility.

“Don’t have the notice separate. Put it right on the bill. Other papers get misfiled or thrown away.” (English PEV)

  • Some PEV customers (especially non-English speaking) need more personal attention…
  • to understand the process (as many do not read or write well).

“It’s confusing the different lines for social welfare. Taxes, codes, it’s confusing. I don’t know which column is correct for welfare. How do I fill it? What about the information for Grandma?” (Chinese PEV)

  • to assure them their income information is safe.

“I would love to be a part of the program it’s a big help. Maybe someone else got my application. They should be more careful with the application.” (Spanish PEV)



Persuading Participants to Continue with CARE

  • Respondents tend to feel the program is a great help and they would like to continue with it.
  • Many are at a loss when asked what PG&E could do to convince qualified customers to stay in the program.

“I don’t know how it could be easier and why wouldn’t they return the information if they could qualify? I wish I could.” (English Non-Recertification)

  • Respondents (most often Chinese) suggest more advertising may keep the public aware of the program and its benefits.

“If they know people in this category they could talk to them. They could put out flyers in the street. You could put it on Chinese TV. (Interviewer: What channels?) Great Wall. Immigrants watch the Chinese stations.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

  • One man recommends putting the application in the Chinese newspaper.

“Advertise on the TV, Sing Tao radio 1415, (Interviewer: Anything else?) Have a sample application in the newspaper.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

  • An English speaking respondent recommends more testimonials about the program and how it can make a difference.

“They could ask customers to be in commercials…” (English Non-Recertification)

  • A few feel that in this economy the maximum income tiers should be raised.

“I have been in the program for seven years. I have recertified twice. Now I am no longer qualified. Your standards (income tiers) are too high. They are not compassionate with my situation.” (Chinese Non-Recertification)

  • A respondent says he barely exceeds the maximum income for five people and still cannot pay his bill.


Persuading Participants to Continue with CARE (continued)

  • Others would like to see less documentation required to verify income, or at least the acceptance of alternative documentation.

“I don’t think they should ask for so many documents.” (Chinese PEV)

“I think they should accept bank statements. A copy of last year’s taxes from an accountant…” (English PEV)

  • For some Hispanic and elderly customers, anxiety surrounding “full disclosure” may be lessened by allowing the information to be presented in person, without providing copies or sending it through the mail.

“I think if I took it to an office I would feel better. Or if you don’t want to send…bring it to an office. (Interviewer: Would that make it easier to share?) I would take it there personally. It develops more trust. I may be more likely to sign up.” (Spanish PEV)

  • Providing more explanation of how the income documents are handled would also be of value.

“I worry that it would cause me a problem. People don’t trust what PG&E would do with it and don’t want to give personal information.” (Spanish PEV)