May 19 - AEP Ohio has announced a new partnership with Dollar Energy Fund, a Pennsylvania-based fuel fund, to help provide utility assistance to low-income families.
Through a new fund called Neighbor to Neighbor, AEP Ohio customers who earn up to 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, about $44,100 a year for a family of four, may receive up to $600 in assistance per year. The program began accepting applications May 4.
The utility announced that it will provide an initial $1 million in matching funds. Organizers hope the rest will come from donors and other customers, who will have the option of checking a box to contribute to the fund when they pay their AEP bills. Organizers estimate the fund could help 10,000 to 15,000 customers.
Dollar Energy Fund operates similar programs in other states, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Because administrative costs are paid from separate funds, all donations directly benefit needy customers, according to the Fund's chief executive officer Cindy Datig.
Consumer advocates welcomed the new assistance, but noted that the program is being launched as disconnection orders increase and electricity rates rise. The Ohio consumers' counsel is still fighting an AEP Ohio rate change that includes a retroactive rate increase. Typical central Ohio customers are paying about $12.40 more per month, said Janine Migden-Ostrander, the consumers' counsel.
Source: Ohio newspapers, AEP news release