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Fall 2016
Volume 2 Issue 4


Home Heating and Electricity Bill Assistance for Supplier Customers

Winter weather forecasts are predicting that 2017 will be even colder than the past few years, resulting in higher heating demand by customers – and possibly higher costs. You don’t have to just accept this situation as it is, however; there are several things you can do to take hold of your energy bill.

Choosing Your Own Supplier
Today, a growing number of states are creating the option for consumers to choose if they would like to purchase their electricity or natural gas from a competitive energy supplier or from their local utility. Competitive suppliers are typically licensed by your state’s public utility commission (sometimes called public service commission). See our status of restructuring by state page to find out if choice is available to you.

Energy Efficiency
There are several steps that you can to increase the energy efficiency in your home and to reduce energy usage. While you can make large-scale changes such as having the roof inspected for missing or loose shingles, investing in insulating blinds, and replacing single pane windows, there are many small adjustments that can also lead to major energy savings.  These include replacing air filters, ensuring there are no obstacles to heating vents so air can flow freely, eliminating drafts by putting plastic over windows, using draft-stoppers in front of doors, and closing the damper when your fireplace is not in use. These and more tips are available at the District of Columbia’s “winter-ready” checklist page available here. You can also visit your state’s public utility commission website for more energy efficiency tips.

Energy Bill Assistance
Many states and local jurisdictions also offer energy bill assistance. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and keeps families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs. LIHEAP can also help with energy-related home repairs and weatherization home energy audit, which includes an analysis of your energy bills, a blower-door (pressurized) test of the infiltration of outside air into your house, and an inspection of all energy equipment for health and safety.

States administer the LIHEAP program on the federal government’s behalf, and determine the eligibility criteria. Any household that receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and other benefit programs, typically qualifies automatically.

We describe the programs in several U.S. states below; for more information on the programs available in your state, please visit The LIHEAP Action Center.

The District of Columbia’s LIHEAP is available for eligible households to receive between $250 and $1,500 as a one-time energy assistance benefit. The energy assistance benefit is based on household size, total household income, heating source, and type of dwelling. There is also an emergency energy assistance benefit available to low-income District residents who are currently disconnected from electric or gas service, or have a depleted supply of home heating oil. Information on this program is available here.

Pennsylvania’s LIHEAP program opened in November of 2016 and offers the cash program for utility bills, as well as crisis program benefits. Emergency situations include broken heating equipment or leaking lines that must be fixed or replaced; a shut-off main heating source or second heating source; or  being in danger of having no  fuel (less than a 15-day supply) or of having utility service terminated (received a notice that service will be shut off within the next 60 days). Pennsylvania’s benefits are administered on a local county level and applications may be accessed by visiting Pennsylvania's heating assistance page.

Maryland’s Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) provides bill assistance to low-income households to make energy bills more affordable and to prevent the loss of and  restoration of home energy service. The Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) provides assistance grants to help with home heating bills where payments are made to the fuel supply company on the customer’s behalf; the MEAP FAQ page specifically notes that eligibility is not impacted by customers who choose to purchase their electricity from a retail supplier. The Electric Universal Service Program (EUSP) provides financial assistance with both current and past-due electric bills. Customers who qualify for EUSP are placed on a budget billing plan with their utility. Maryland also offers Arrearage Retirement Assistance, this helps eligible customers with a large past-due electric bill with grants of up to $2,000 based on their bill amount. Customers are only eligible for an arrearage grant once every seven years. Maryland residents may apply for assistance at local OHEP offices, by mail, or online.

New York’s LIHEAP grant is allocated amongst its Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) office for its heating benefit program, the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal for weatherization activities. Applications are taken at all local departments of social services. Benefits are available for those heating their homes with electricity, natural gas, oil, coal, propane, wood, kerosene and corn. In order to qualify, New York residents must meet the statutory income level. Further information is available at here.

For continued information and updates on LIHEAP programs, please visit your public utility commission website.

 
-The ACCES team






New on CompetitiveEnergy.org

ACCES recently held its annual meeting in Washington D.C. and has mapped out some exciting consumer education initiatives for 2016-17! Stay tuned for a forthcoming news release.




About ACCES

The American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers (ACCES) is a group of competitive retail natural gas and electricity suppliers committed to education and outreach to help consumers better understand and take advantage of the benefits of energy choice.














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