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Gas Company Offers Help With Post-Holiday Utility Bills

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As post-holiday bills arrive in mailboxes this month, some families will be faced with tough financial decisions, struggling to make payments in a difficult economy. Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) urges customers to take advantage of the utility’s assistance programs -- programs that can help reduce winter heating bills and increase energy efficiency.

“We are trying to help our customers in need, including those who are unemployed and those having difficulty paying their bills,” said Hal D. Snyder, vice president of customer solutions for The Gas Company.

Customers are encouraged to call The Gas Company before their account is overdue and learn about the available assistance programs. A Gas Company representative will work with customers to set up a payment plan that meets their needs.

The Gas Company offers a wide range of assistance programs for qualifying customers on a limited income or with special medical needs.

• The California Alternate Rate for Energy (CARE) program provides a 20- percent rate discount on the monthly natural gas bill.

Customers may be eligible automatically if they currently receive benefits from the Women, Infants and Children, Healthy Families, Medi- Cal/Medicaid, Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or LIHEAP programs.

• The Direct Assistance Program (DAP) provides energy- saving home improvements to income-qualified renters and homeowners. Free services include: door weather-stripping and caulking to keep out drafts; ceiling insulation to keep the home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter; low-flow showerheads that can save energy used to heat water; furnace replacement (owner-occupied homes only) and other minor home repairs.

• People who require additional heating for health reasons may qualify for additional natural gas service at the lowest rate through the Medical Baseline Allowance program.

There are no income requirements for the Medical Baseline program; however, doctor certification is required.

• The Gas Assistance Fund provides a one-time grant to customers during the winter who are income-qualified and unable to pay their bill. The program, which is available until funds are depleted, is administered by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and is funded by donations from customers and employees of The Gas Company, as well as shareholders of Sempra Energy, The Gas Company’s parent company.

For all customers, The Gas Company also offers hundreds of dollars in rebates for the purchase of energy-efficient appliances and can provide customers with a free energy- and watersaving kit. The kit includes three faucet aerators and a lowflow showerhead to help customers save energy and water.

These devices allow air to enter into the water stream, maintaining a high-pressure flow while reducing water usage – ultimately saving money.

U.S. Census Bureau Opens Local Census Office In Riverside

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Along with state and local officials, the U.S. Census Bureau will mark the countdown to the 2010 Census with the grand opening of its Local Census Office in Riverside, California. The event signals the beginning of a massive operation to count everyone, one time, where they live. The Local Census Office in Riverside will be the hub of census operations for surrounding communities, including Corona, Moreno Valley, Beaumont, Banning, Idyllwild, and Mountain Center.

The grand opening will happen today at 2 pm to 4 pm at U.S. Census Bureau, 11820 Pierce Street, Suite 100, Riverside, CA 92502. Free parking in the lot in front of the building.

Refreshments and tours of the Riverside Local Census Office will follow the opening ceremony.

The Local Census Office in Riverside is one of 39 Local Census Offices opening in January, 2010, throughout the Los Angeles Region's 19 southern California counties and the state of Hawaii. During peak operations the Local Census Office in Riverside will employ approximately 1,500 people from the surrounding area.

State Controller John Chiang To Speak At EITC Awareness Day

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California State Controller John Chiang will be the featured speaker at EITC Awareness Day sponsored by Community Action Partnership of Riverside County (CAP Riverside) on Friday, January 29 at 10:00 a.m. at California Baptist University. National EITC Awareness Day is organized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its stakeholders to educate the public about the Earned Income Tax Credit and requirements to claim the credit. The reception will take place in the Copenbarger Room at the Yeager Center, California Baptist University, 8432 Magnolia Avenue in Riverside. Controller John Chiang, Supervisor Marion Ashley, Mayor Ron Loveridge, representatives of the IRS, CBU and CAP Riverside will have remarks for the press and community.

At the conclusion of the remarks, the new CAP Mobile will be available for inspection. Volunteers will be preparing taxes on site in the mobile unit, which will be used to bring tax preparation services during special events throughout Riverside County.

Tax preparation will take place until 1:00 p.m. EITC is a refundable federal tax credit for working families who earn less than $50,000 a year. This credit helps reduce the tax burden on low and moderate-income families. Based on earnings and family situation, taxpayers can receive up to $5,657 in Earned Income Tax Credit refunds. Families may also qualify for other tax credits, including the Child Tax Credit, which can reduce a family’s tax liability by up to $1,000 per child. Also, refunds may be split and direct deposited into up to three different bank accounts.

Community Action Partnership of Riverside County is operating eight Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites throughout Riverside County, providing weekend and evening hours and bilingual volunteers to assist taxpayers.

Please contact Community Action Partnership of Riverside County at (951) 955-4900 or (800) 511-1110 or visit www.capriverside.org for addresses and times of operation.

SCE Works Overnight to Restore Power After Storm Outages

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Southern California Edison (SCE) crews worked overnight to restore service to customers throughout its 50,000-square mile service territory affected by weather-related outages.

The utility had 18,204 customers without service. SCE is prioritizing repairs so that customers who have been without power the longest will have service restored first.

Forecasters are predicting the next storm will hit later today, and SCE is ready to dispatch crews as needed when outages occur.

The total number of customers affected since the storm began on Sunday is 206,454. Some customers experienced flickering lights, while others had longer outages.

SCE preparation steps The National Weather Service is predicting more winter storms this week, bringing heavy rain, high wind conditions, flooding in the burn areas and snow. SCE took following precautionary steps to prepare for possible outages:

· SCE and contract crews have mobilized as outages occurred and will continue working around-the-clock to restore power in areas that might be affected.

· SCE storm response personnel are supporting service restoration, ensuring that the utility has available inventories of material and equipment for repair work.

· SCE is prioritizing repairs so that customers who have been without power the longest will have service restored first.

· Additional SCE customer call center representatives will be activated to help answer customer calls in the event of increased outages.

· Customers can report outages by calling (800) 611-1911.

Safety reminders: With high winds, heavy rain and snow forecast, SCE wants to remind its customers to be prepared in case of weather-related outages and suggests: If you know someone who is dependent on electrically operated medical equipment, make back-up power arrangements in case a power outage affects that equipment.

· Watch for traffic signals that may be out. Approach those intersections as four-way stops.

· If you see a power line on the ground, stay away. Do not touch it or try to remove it. Call SCE or local law enforcement.

· Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and flashlights. Check the batteries to make sure they are fresh. Use flashlights for lighting during a power outage; do not use candles because they pose a significant fire hazard.

· Do not use equipment designed for outdoor cooking indoors. Such equipment can emit carbon monoxide and other toxic gases.

· If you use a generator, place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into the generator, using a heavyduty extension cord.

Connecting generators directly to household circuits creates “backfeed,” which is dangerous to repair crews.

Red Carpet Event Re-Opens Historic Fox Theater

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In grand Hollywood fashion, guests recently walked the red carpet and entered the historic Fox Performing Arts Center during the re-opening gala.

Providing evidence of progress for the City of Riverside’s $1.68 billion Riverside Renaissance project, Mayor Ron Loveridge, City and State officials, and local VIPs celebrated the Fox Gala.

“Riverside Renaissance is not just about public infrastructure, but about an investment in the quality and pride of our great city,” said Mayor Loveridge.

“These projects ensure that Riverside is a “renaissance” city for generations to come, as well as a catalyst for private investment.

As the city invests in itself, Riverside becomes even more attractive for new employment, retail and entertainment opportunities.”

On May 3, 2007, after more than 1,300 visitors took one final tour through the auditorium, the Fox Theater closed its doors for construction. The historic structure has been reinvented as a state-of-the-art performing arts theater for Riverside and the Inland Empire.

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