Zwick said Wildfire based its estimate of 60,000 TEP customers who may be eligible for the Lifeline discounts based on the utility’s customer base and data showing that, before the pandemic, 17.7% of Tucson residents lived below the federal poverty line.
In 2019, the median household annual income was $53,379 for the Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is comprised of Pima County, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
Median income for families — households of two or more related people — was higher at $66,727, and the median for families including a married couple was even higher, at $81,511.
TEP has not made any estimate of how many of its customers may qualify for Lifeline discount rates, or how many additional ratepayers qualify under the higher income threshold, spokesman Joe Barrios said.
“We don’t know who is eligible until they tell us,” he said.
But out of an estimated 404,739 households in Pima County — where the average household size was 2.42 persons — 47%, or more than 190,000, had annual income of $49,999 or less, Census data shows.
And out of an estimated 248,813 families in Pima County in 2019, 36.5% or nearly 91,000 had income of $49,000 or less, the agency reported.
“I don’t have any expectation that we will get to that 60,000 mark,” Zwick said. “But I think if we can help more families get a bit more of a discount on their rates, it’s good for the families but it’s also good for the company, because if they can stay connected and current on their bills, they’re in a better situation overall.”