Press Release: 2024-02-22

The Discount Rate is Not Enough On Social Security


February 21, 2024

This story is shared by an artist in his 60s in Waltham, MA. 

In December of 2020, I was lucky to get a low-income unit in a luxury apartment building. I consider this my forever home. I’ve moved around a lot and needed a home that would accommodate a power chair. I feel very lucky to have this space, knowing how difficult it is to get off of the waitlist for apartments like mine. 

My building is heated with gas and during the winter I get fuel assistance from the state which is able to cover this bill. The biggest energy expense that I have is my electric bill. While I receive a discount rate on my electricity, this is still one of my largest expenses. I’ve been analyzing my electric bill and making changes to my electric use to try to get my bill down. My dryer and oven really run the bill up. At night I only leave one light on. During the day I rely on the windows as my source of light. I’ve heard that a toaster oven is much cheaper to run than a traditional oven so I’ve tried cooking as much food as possible in the toaster oven and microwave instead. I rely on cooking most of my own food, especially because of some food allergies that I have, but I can’t afford the expense of using the oven every day. 

Sometimes I’m afraid to open the mail to check my energy bill. Just the thought of that gives me anxiety. 

Small changes in the cost of electricity have a huge impact on me. I have an ADA companion, a cat, who was recently diagnosed with asthma, and I need to be able to pay for his medication. 

For those of us living on social security, like myself, we need a more significant discount on our electric bills. The state should lower the energy rates even more if your only source of income is less than $15,000 of social security a year.

The discount rate I receive on my electric bill is very important. Without the discount rate, my electric bill would be like 15-20% of my income - that’s outrageous! I’m very grateful to have access to the discount rate. But for those of us on social security, it’s not enough. 

As for the summer, I’d love to see more trees in my community and around my apartment to help naturally cool the area and cut back on air conditioning costs. More trees and flowers in the neighborhood would really help prevent extreme heat. I’d especially like to see more sunflowers and I’m helping to plant them around town. I hope the next time you visit the community of Waltham, you’re greeted by sunflowers when you step off the train.