Need help paying your energy bills? Here are some resources available to Ohioans.
The federally funded Home Energy Assistance Program provides a one-time payment to help low-income people pay their home heating bills. To qualify, your income must be no more than twice federal poverty guidelines. For example, a single person would have a maximum income of $22,340 a year before taxes; a family of six, $61,940. More specific information about income limits is at http://tinyurl.com/povertyguide line.
A HEAP application is available at http://development.ohio.gov/files/is/HEAPApp.pdf. You can also request one by calling 800-282-0880; writing to P.O. Box 1240, Columbus, OH 43266-0583; or contacting your local community action agency:
• In Summit County, Akron/Summit Community Action Inc., 330-253-8806.
• In Portage County, Community Action Council of Portage County, 330-297-1456.
• In Stark County, Stark County Community Action Agency, 330-454-1676.
• In Wayne County, Community Action Wayne/Medina, 330-264-8677.
• In Medina County, Community Action Wayne/Medina, 330-723-2229.
The Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus is an extended payment plan for people who have unpaid balances on their gas or electric bills and can’t pay them off. The plan reduces those customers’ energy payments year-round to an affordable level. When a customer makes the reduced payments on time and in full, the rest of that month’s bill is forgiven, and so is part of the balance owed.
Not every utility company offers the plan, and some offer a slightly different version. But Dominion East Ohio and Ohio Edison both offer PIPP Plus.
To qualify, your gross yearly household income must be no more than 1½ times federal poverty guidelines — that is, up to $16,755 for a single person or $46,455 for a household of six, before taxes. You must also apply for all other energy assistance programs for which you’re eligible.
You can print an application form at http://development.ohio.gov/files/is/HEAPApp.pdf. You can also request one at 800-282-0880 or one of the community action agencies listed earlier in this article.
Winter Crisis Program
This program provides help once per heating season to people who have their gas or electricity disconnected, who are threatened with disconnection, or who have less than a 10-day supply of bulk fuel.
To qualify, your total household income must be no more than twice federal poverty guidelines.
The program is administered by the community action agencies listed earlier in this article. To apply, contact the agency that serves your county.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s winter reconnect program helps Ohioans who have had their electricity or natural gas disconnected or are facing disconnection.
The program is for customers of utilities regulated by the commission, including Ohio Edison and Dominion East Ohio.
Under the program, people can have their service restored or maintained by paying either the amount they owe or $175, whichever is less. They must also pay a reconnection fee of no more than $36.
Customers may use the program once between Oct 15, 2012, and April 15, 2013.
There is no income requirement, but the program requires participants to sign up for a payment plan to pay their past-due balance.
For more information, call the PUCO at 800-686-7826.
Dominion East Ohio’s Energy Share program helps its customers in need with their natural gas bills. The program can provide up to $500 for heating bills and up to $250 for deposits.
To qualify, you must have received a termination notice from the company, unless you’re 60 or older. Applicants of any age must have exhausted other resources for state and federal fuel assistance.
In addition, you must meet one of these criteria:
• Your annual household income is no more than 1½ times federal poverty guidelines.
• The head of your household is unemployed.
• You can demonstrate a personal or family crisis.
For more information, call Dominion East Ohio at 800-362-7557.
This emergency fund assists customers who need help paying their electric bill because of a recent financial hardship. It’s funded by Ohio Edison customers and employees and FirstEnergy shareholders.
Payments are distributed by the Salvation Army.
Customers who contact Ohio Edison in need of financial assistance are referred to the nearest participating Salvation Army unit. The Salvation Army can then invite them to apply.
For information, call 800-633-4766.
Extended payment plans
Ohio Edison, Dominion East Ohio and other gas and electric companies regulated by the PUCO offer extended payment plans to all their residential customers, regardless of income. These plans are available:
• The One-Third Plan, also called the Winter Heating Season Plan. It’s available from Nov. 1 to April 15 and requires you to pay one-third of your total account balance each month.
• The One-Sixth Plan requires you to make six equal monthly payments on your past-due amount, in addition to your monthly budget payment.
• The One-Ninth Plan requires you to make nine equal monthly payments on your past-due amount, in addition to your monthly budget payment.
For information, contact Ohio Edison at 800-686-3421 or Dominion East Ohio at 800-362-7557. You can also call the community action agency that serves your county, or call the PUCO at 800-686-7826.
The federally funded Home Weatherization Assistance Program doesn’t help you pay your existing energy bills, but it does help low-income people make home improvements that decrease their energy use. Those improvements should result in smaller energy bills from then on.
The program performs a home energy audit to determine which improvements are most cost effective. Improvements might include insulation, sealing of air leaks and repair or replacement of the heating system, as well as health and safety testing and inspections.
The program also educates people about saving energy.
To qualify, your household income must be no more than twice the federal poverty guidelines. An application form is available at http://development.ohio.gov/files/is/HEAPApp.pdf, or request one by calling 800-282-0880 or the community action agency that serves your county.
This program helps military reservists and National Guard members and their families maintain utility service while the service member is on active duty.
The plan prohibits Ohio’s natural gas and electric utilities from disconnecting service for nonpayment if the household has a reservist or Guard member deployed on active duty.
When the military member returns from active duty, the company must offer the customer an amount of time equal to the deployment to pay off the bill. A customer can request more time if repayment creates a hardship.
The utility company can’t charge any late-payment fees or interest during the deployment or the repayment period.
The Patriot Plan doesn’t apply to career active-duty military personnel serving their regular tour of duty.
For information, call Ohio Edison at 800-686-3421, Dominion East Ohio at 800-362-7557 or the PUCO at 800-686-7826.
Help for veterans
Veterans Service Commissions in all of Ohio’s counties provide temporary financial assistance to veterans and their families for a range of needs that may include utility bills.
The assistance is funded by county property taxes. Decisions on assistance are made by the individual commissions.
To ask about assistance, contact the Veterans Service Commission office in your county:
• In Summit, 330-643-2830 or www.vscsummitoh.us.
• In Stark, 330-451-7457 or www.co.stark.oh.us (in the column marked “Agencies & Depts,” click on “Veterans Service Commission”).
• In Medina, 330-722-9368 or www.medinacountyveteransservice office.org.
• In Portage, 330-297-3545 or www.co.portage.oh.us/veterans.htm.
• In Wayne, 800-335-6638, 330-345-6638 or www.waynecounty veterans.org.
You can also read more about benefits available to veterans by downloading a Benefits Resource Guide on the Ohio Department of Veterans Services’ website, http://dvs.ohio.gov.