The L.A. Department of Water and Power (LADWP) provides reliable and safe water and electricity to 4 million residents and businesses, while also striving to provide affordable utilities to the city’s most vulnerable residents. LADWP leadership recognizes that the health and economic crises spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted low-income and minority Angelenos disproportionately, which, among other challenges, has led to an increasing number of residents who cannot afford their utilities. LADWP leadership also realizes that more must be done to connect eligible low-income residents with assistance programs and resources. To support these efforts, FUSE Executive Fellow Joseph Koh assessed current services to support the expansion of low-income utility assistance programs.
Joseph established data-driven approaches that will serve as the foundation for better understanding and engaging the 1.4 million households across LADWP’s service areas. Using both internal and publicly available data, he developed a proof of concept dashboard to help tell the story of Los Angeles and the inequitable impacts that the pandemic has had on lower income customers and communities of color. Joseph used insights from the dashboard to help inform program and policy decisions related to unpaid utility bills and multi-million dollar state relief, gaps in discount and energy-savings programs enrollment, customer experience, and longer term affordability and accessibility. Simultaneously, he continues to work to build and formalize an engagement model with over 30 community-based organizations. This more collaborative model will help ensure that LADWP can continue to make customer- and community-centric decisions, while enabling it to better allocate financial assistance to the most needy residents and ensure equitable access to vital public services.