While local garbage company Recology offers a low-income program that gives discounts to single-family households with 20- or 32-gallon carts, less than 3% of eligible customers in San Benito County are currently enrolled. This could be attributed to the fact that Recology does not advertise the program.
General Manager Phil Couchee said 230 of 8,000 eligible customers are enrolled in the program. Recology serves 14,000 residential customers in the county. According to the U.S Census, 8.6% of persons in San Benito County live in poverty.
Couchee said Recology uses the same household income calculation as PG&E’s California Alternate Rates for Energy Program (CARE) and Family Electric Rate Assistance Program to determine whether a customer qualifies for lower rates. Residents may also qualify for PG&E’s CARE program based on at least one household member’s participation in other public assistance programs such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the National School Lunch Program. A list of eligible programs is available here.
Recology’s low-income rates vary in Hollister, San Juan Bautista and the unincorporated areas of the county. Hollister residents in the low-income program can save between $6.72 and $8.07 a month for garbage services.
While Couchee said information on the program should be online, it’s only referenced in the rate sheet on Recology’s website and does not tell customers how they can apply. He said on Nov. 13 he would look into putting the application information on the website, but as of Dec. 3 it has yet to be published.
On Nov. 30, Couchee said Recology is exploring ways to advertise the program, but could not give any details as it’s in the discussion stage. Recology’s website states in its FAQ section that residents can lower their rates by reducing the size of the trash cart.
When BenitoLink called Recology’s office in Gilroy prior to contacting Couchee, a customer service representative said the information on the low-income program was not online or sent to customers. The representative said customers needed to call the office to get information on how to apply.
Couchee said customers can mail a copy of their PG&E bill to Recology to apply for the low-income program.
Celina Stotler, staff analyst with San Benito County Integrated Waste Management, said Recology is required by its franchise agreement to offer low-income rates. However, the agreement doesn’t require the company to advertise its program.
Integrated Waste Management is a regional agency formed by the incorporated county, Hollister and San Juan Bautista. The agency oversees the franchise agreement with Recology, as well as the John Smith Landfill, and handled the low-income program before the 2018 franchise agreement, Stotler said. Now the Integrated Waste Management website directs customers to Recology.
On Nov. 17, the San Juan Bautista City Council approved Recology’s request to increase its rates by 4.5% after deferring it in July for a six-month period because of COVID-19. Earlier that day, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors continued its discussion of rate increases to a Dec. 15 meeting, as it did not have the three votes needed to approve. The Hollister City Council officially approved a six-month deferral on Oct. 19 and will consider a 4.5% rate increase on Dec. 7.
According to the Board of Supervisors meeting agenda packet, Recology’s six-month deferral represented a revenue loss of $251,914. Recology will be able to offset some of its revenue loss through a credit arrangement where the company would not have to pay penalties for accidental lapses in service reported by customers.
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