February 7 - As part of a regulatory settlement, Duke Energy will contribute $3.5 million over the next five years to a program helping its low-income customers in Indiana pay their electric bills.
The money will expand the utility's "Helping Hand" program, which gives eligible customers up to $300 toward their electric bills. Before this current boost, program participants could only receive $100. The new funding will be distributed in $700,000 amounts annually over the five years. This year's infusion will be combined with the $100,000 already contributed by Duke Energy customers, giving Helping Hand a total of $800,000.
Money isn't the only expansion for Helping Hand. Duke Energy announced the program will now be open to any customers living in households whose incomes don't exceed 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Previously, only disabled customers and low-income seniors were eligible.
People interested in applying for the program can contact their local community action agency; these agencies also administer LIHEAP.
Duke says if funds are still available, they also can be used for summer cooling bills.
Duke has nearly 800,000 electricity customers across Indiana.