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Northeast Ohio Utility Bill Assistance Programs

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As the temperature drops, Ohio utility bills rise -- sometimes beyond our capability to pay. If you find yourself in this situation, there are numerous programs in northeast Ohio to help you keep your heat and electricity in service.

Heap (Home Energy Assistance Program)

HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) is a US government program that provides assistance for low-income families to pay their heating bills. To be eligible, your income must be no more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. (In 2010, that number was $21,660 for a single person household, $29,140 for two persons, and $44,100 for a family of four.)

Assistance varies depending on the number of people in your household, the fuel you use to heat your home, and the total household income. In most cases, a one-time benefit will be paid directly to your energy supplier.

Applications are accepted from August 1 to May 31. For more information and to print an application, visit the HEAP Web site

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Winter Crisis Program

This division of HEAP, formerly called the Emergency Energy Assistance Program, gives one-time assistance to families at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines who are facing disconnection or have less than a ten-day supply of heating fuel

Applications are taken through March 31 at local community action centers. For an application, visit the Winter Crisis Program Web site.

Salvation Army HeatShare Program

Heatshare (also called EnergyShare) is the Salvation Army's energy assistance program. This program runs from January through May (or until funds are exhausted) and gives one-time assistance to low-income and disabled persons towards their natural gas bill. The program is sponsored by Dominion East Ohio and administered by the Salvation Army. For information, contact the NE Ohio Salvation Army.

Extended Payment Plans

Ohio gas and electric companies also offer PUCO-supported extended payment plans to help customers restore or maintain service. The one-third plan (where customers pay one-third of the balance owed) is offered from November 1 to April 15. There is also a one-sixth plan. For more information, contact your energy provider or call the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) at 800 686-7826.

Summer Crisis Program

Winter isn't the only time Ohio residents need utility assistance. Ohio's recent hot, hot summers can be unbearable (and dangerous) without air conditioning. The summer crisis program, a division of HEAP, helps low-income, elderly residents and those with chronic medical conditions with a one-time assistance payment towards the cost of electricity or the purchase of a fan or air-conditioning unit.

Persons applying for this program must have an income no greater than 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Applications are taken between July 1 and August 31.
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