Fall brings shorter days, falling leaves and cooler temperatures. Consumers sometimes have difficulty keeping current with their energy bills this time of year. BBB advises consumers to be cautious of offers for energy savings devices that may be ineffective or, in some cases, unsafe to use. And be suspicious of phone calls asking you detailed personal info about your utility usage. Check with BBB for business reviews, energy saving tips and other helpful information.
Ohio residents can also take advantage of the Winter Reconnection Order Program offered by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. This program offers a one-time assistance to avoid disconnection. The Winter Reconnection Order went into effect on October 14, 2013 and PUCO will provide this opportunity for consumers until April 15, 2014.
Some of the guidelines include:
* Electric and/or natural gas service can be restored or maintained by making the one-time payment. If customers owe past due amounts on their electric AND natural gas bills, the $175 can be divided between both utilities.
* For customers who have been disconnected, payment of a reconnection fee of no more than $36 can also be required. If the utility’s reconnection fee is higher, the balance may be billed to the customer the following month.
* Customers must sign up for a payment plan to pay any remaining past-due balance on their utility bill.
* Households with incomes at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines ($41,213 gross annual income for a household of four) may use funds provided through the Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (E-HEAP) to pay make the one-time payment. These funds are available through local community action agencies.
* Former Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP Plus) and Graduate PIPP Plus customers can use the Winter Reconnection Order to re-enroll or continue participation in the program. Those customers must pay the balance of any missed PIPP Plus or Graduate PIPP Plus payments that are more than $175 by the due date of the next bill.
* The $175 can be used to establish electric or natural gas service instead of the required security deposit. If the deposit is more than $175, the remaining balance will be added to the next month’s bill.
There are a number of additional resources available to help residential consumers stay connected to their utilities. The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) provides information about other federal, state and utility-funded assistance programs available to assist consumers with their energy bills.