The Clutter Coach


One Person's Guide to Find Help

By Chris Daley, Mountain Democrat staff writer
April 22nd, 2010
Reprinted with permission of the Mountain Democrat, Placerville, CA

Cynthia EstesFirst you lose your job. Then comes a freak storm that drops 12 inches of snow on your roof, and everyone else's too. Then the power goes out and all the food in the refrigerator and freezer goes bad. You check the mailbox hoping for good news. Your most recent propane bill is $100 more than it was the time before. Not good news at all.

If some or all of this sounds familiar, you are not alone. And help is out there somewhere - maybe a phone call or mouse click away.

Cynthia Estes, lifelong Placerville native, has spent a good portion of the past several months finding out where the help is and how to get it. She has shared some of her research with the Mountain Democrat for the benefit of others who may be experiencing a plight similar to hers. In her case the above chronology isn't exact, but it makes the point.

Here are several examples of resources and services Estes has discovered:

Waste Connections, the company that probably picks up your garbage, recycle and yard waste cans every week or so has a senior discount. Save 10 percent on your regular bill by mailing a photo copy of your driver's license if you are 64 or older. Currently there is no discount for low-income customers. Go online to for information.

Last year, Cynthia found out about the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP can offer a credit of up to $400 per year. Eligibility for the program must be determined as it is generally limited to low-income folks. The money is paid directly to your vendors and can cover electricity, propane, even firewood. This program is operated by the Community Services Division of the El Dorado County Department of Human Services. As of a couple of weeks ago, Estes updated us and said the funding for the current year had not yet been made available but was anticipated some time this month.

The same division runs the Weatherization Program under the Housing Authority which can provide up to $6,000 for appliances or remodeling services to eligible home-owners. Services include attic insulation, window repair, water heater blankets, energy efficient refrigerators, weather stripping, lighting and even microwave ovens, and more. The income guidelines are higher than those for some other programs.

According to a pamphlet from the department, a household of four can have a monthly gross income of not more than $4,675 and qualify for the program. For a single resident the figure is $2,431 and for a family of six the qualifying gross amount is not more than $6,171. Current funding is partially derived from the federal stimulus American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Information on either of the above programs is available at 530- 621-6150; 937 Spring St., Placerville.

Estes notes that PG&E also has a Stimulus Weatherization program and information regarding reduced payments for low-income residents. See

The City of Placerville partners with PG&E and offers a Residential Lifeline 25 percent discount on water/sewer rates. You must be in the PG&E Care program in order to qualify for the city discount. Simply send a copy of your PG&E bill that shows correct name and address (it has to match the city's records) to the city Finance Department, according to Suzanne Pronk. She is the friendly and helpful person who fielded questions from the Mountain Democrat in a recent phone call. She further explained that the city has a similar deal with AT&T's Universal Lifeline program, and customers should follow the same procedure as with the PG&E program.

For anyone without access to a computer, there is an old-timey thing called a telephone book which will have most of the contact information for government services as well as private businesses.

Cash aid, food stamps and employment services are available through the county Department of Human Services at 3057 Briw Road, Placerville, 530-642-7300. A full list of services can be seen on the department's Website. Just Google "El Dorado County" and click on Departments and follow the directions.

That department also houses various adult and children's protective services and programs. Human Services has a comprehensive satellite office that provides the same range of programs in the South Lake Tahoe area.

Other goods or services from Estes' cornucopia include low-cost car insurance from the state's Department of Insurance. This program is also based on income eligibility. For one person, the annual income ceiling is $27,075; for two persons, it's $36,425, and it goes up to a high of $92,525 for a household of eight. The brochure notes that to qualify, you must have the following:

a good driving record;

be at least 19 years old and been licensed to drive for at least the past three years;

own a vehicle valued at $20,000 or less,

meet the income guidelines as noted.

Policies are issued by California licensed insurance companies... and satisfy the state's liability requirement... reads the brochure. Premiums are set at under $400 per year and are specific to each county. El Dorado County's rate is $263, while Sacramento's is $361.

For information on California's Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program, call 1-866-602-8861 or go online to

Green Valley Community Church, 3500 Missouri Flat Road, Placerville, offers an extensive range of programs and services from job search assistance to family relationship counseling; health and wellness to singles groups; recovery programs to men's and women's spiritual study groups and a lot more. The church has a 12-page booklet describing its programs and services. Online, look for or call 530-622-3231.

For information specific to senior citizens or disabled persons, contact the Senior Helpline at 530-621-6369. If you need help getting organized, contact Cynthia Estes

E-mail Chris Daley at or call 530-344-5063.

Call (530) 957-2975 for a free 20 minute phone consultation and estimate!