March 18, 2016—Regulatory protections that keep customers from having their utility service disconnected for non-payment of bills expired in six states this week. An additional 18 will end by April 1.
As deadlines for moratoria approach across the country, utilities and public utility commissions are encouraging their customers to catch up on unpaid bills. Some, like Wisconsin Public Service, are urging low-income constituents to contact their utility companies to set up payment plans and to also take advantage of LIHEAP assistance. The regular heating program for Wisconsin’s LIHEAP is set to end on May 15, so customers are advised to apply as soon as possible, as funds are also limited.
In Indiana the winter moratorium on those customers who qualify and apply for LIHEAP assistance has already passed. Indiana’s LIHEAP has dedicated funds set aside for its Crisis Assistance program that runs concurrently with the moratorium. However, should any funds remain in the Crisis Assistance fund after the end of the moratorium, they will continue to be awarded throughout the rest of the year. Similarly, the regular winter LIHEAP season is scheduled to end May 31—any funds that remain from the winter heating season will be used for a summer cooling program that would be set to begin in June.
The Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) is encouraging customers to contact their utilities for information on additional financial assistance programs that are available to them. One such program that NIPSCO offers is its Customer Assistance for Residential Energy (CARE) program, which provides an additional bill reduction through discounts to LIHEAP-eligible customers. Reductions range from 11 to 26 percent of their bill. For those whose income disqualifies them for LIHEAP, between 151 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the NIPSCO Hardship program also offers up to a $400 grant to be applied to the customer’s gas bill. These are just a few examples of the many programs that are available across the state of Indiana.
For more information about disconnection policies in each state, see the Clearinghouse website.
Sources: Media, LIHEAP Clearinghouse