City Launches Support Call Center & Utility Rate Relief Programs

City Launches Support Call Center & Utility Rate Relief Programs

For Immediate Release

March 17, 2020

New actions seek to provide enhanced support to the community and Palo Alto businesses during this challenging time

PALO ALTO, CA –The City of Palo Alto will activate a Community Support Call Center on Wednesday, March 18 to connect the community with information to help navigate services during the coronavirus crisis. It also announced utility rate relief programs to support residential and business customers.

The Community Support Call Center line will be open Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m.— 6 p.m. The Community Support Call Center will launch on Wednesday at 1 p.m. and can be accessed by calling (650) 272-3181

The launch of the Community Support Call Center follows a series of other City actions in support of the City’s public safety response to the coronavirus public health crisis. Other recent actions include adoption of a Proclamation of Local Emergency by the Palo Alto City Council at its meeting on Monday, March 16. The proclamation is an important step to enable flexibility in how Palo Alto can respond to this changing public health situation. Such a move helps ensure the City’s public safety and emergency services personnel secure vital supplies, funding, and assistance.

The City announced a series of utility rate relief programs to support customers during this difficult time. Programs and actions include implementing a temporary ban on shut-offs for non-payment, lengthening repayment plans, and expanding the medical rate and financial rate assistance programs. Residential customers who are experiencing financial hardship may be eligible for a 25 percent discount on gas and electricity charges and a 20 percent discount on storm drain charges. Details on these programs can be found here.

The City also has a program to support residents with one-time bill assistance funded by customer donations. To apply for this program, go here.

Utilities Customer Service can help with questions associated with these programs. Customer support is available through the call center and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) at (650) 329–2161, online customer account service at, or email at This includes paying bills.

Essential City Services Continue as County Health Issues Legal Order for Residents to Shelter in Place for Three Weeks

The City’s public safety response to slow the spread of the Coronavirus continues as additional County and State directives have been issued. The latest Santa Clara County Public Health Department order was issued on Monday, March 16 calling for residents to stay home and shelter in place for three weeks beginning March 17. The order limits activity, travel, and business functions to only the most essential needs. The guidance comes after substantial input from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and best practices from other health officials around the world.

City Manager Ed Shikada, acting as the Director of Emergency Services, activated the City’s Emergency Operations Center on Sunday, ahead of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department order.

“Activating our emergency operations center will focus coordination with community and business strategic partners, help our staff teams continue to provide essential services, and continue our coordinated public safety response because of the heightened public health emergency we are all facing,” said Shikada. “Now the community will also have a number to call to better help them navigate community services, many that are operating by appointment only during this period.”
City Facility Closures Still In Effect

Previous actions by the City announced last week continue to be in effect and seek to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus including closure of its libraries, the Art Center, recreation facilities such as the Mitchell Park Community Center and Teen Center, Lucie Stern Community Center, the Junior Museum and Zoo, the Children’s Theatre and Rinconada Pool. Access to City Hall and the City’s Development Center are by phone or email only. The City has cancelled, postponed or adjusted events and programs until at least April 30. Our Open Space and parks continue to remain open, but public playground areas are closed as of today. Find a list of events that are currently cancelled or postponed here.

Helping Local Businesses

As much as possible, the City is asking that our community support local businesses online and through other ways. Many Palo Alto local restaurants are taking online orders and some are even delivering. The City created a webpage that will continue to be updated as local, state and federal business resources become available. Go to and click on the Resources for Businesses button.

Social Distancing and Resetting Behaviors in Response to Coronavirus

The public is being asked to observe social distancing that includes sitting six feet away from others, not shaking hands and other efforts during this unprecedented time. There are still many ways to stay connected with friends in this digital age and remain active, while attempting to reduce stress and remain healthy. Here are some ideas to keep a sense of normalcy during this time of heightened public health risk. They are based on the resources the City and others in the community are offering:

Informing the Community on the Latest Local Developments

The leading agency focused on public health and responding to the Coronavirus outbreak is the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department. In addition to the new Community Support Call Center line, the City has set up a dedicated webpage and other communications efforts, including placing posters at high-use public facilities and printed materials to help inform and provide tools to help keep our community safe.

For more on recent Coronavirus updates and other online resources, go to the City’s dedicated webpage on this issue at 

Both Santa Clara County and San Mateo County have been using 211 as a "call center" for persons with questions about Coronavirus. Community members can also text "coronavirus" to 211211 for information and updates. In addition, there is also a public information phone number to gain updates by calling (408) 885-3980.

Sent By:

Meghan Horrigan-Taylor
Chief Communications Officer
City Manager's Office
(650) 329-2607 

Last Updated: March 18, 2020