Many low-income people in the Miami Valley region are struggling even more lately due to being laid off because of the coronavirus outbreak. Now, there is some good news as utility companies and energy assistance programs are extending deadlines and the scope of their programs to help those in need.
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is a federally funded program that provides assistance to eligible Ohioans with their home energy bills. This one-time benefit is applied directly to the customer’s utility bill or bulk fuel bill.
The Winter Crisis Program helps income-eligible Ohioans maintain their utility service.
As the deadline of March 31 approached to get help, the Ohio Department of Health says that the state has received an extension of the Winter Crisis Program through May 1, and for HEAP through June 1.
According to ODH officials, you can now also apply for these programs over the phone, instead of appearing in person. Visit EnergyHelp.Ohio.gov for more information, or call 800-282-0880 to begin your application. If you have applied before and are seeking help again, you still will need to go through the application process.
To complete the application, you will need to upload a scanned copy or photo of your proof of income, recent utility bills and proof of citizenship.
Ohioans with a household income at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible for the HEAP program. For households with more than eight members, add $7,735 for each additional member.
A household applying for HEAP must report total gross household income for the past 30 days (12 months preferred) for all members, except wage or salary income earned by dependent minors under 18 years old. Both homeowners and renters are eligible for assistance.
Vectren spokeswoman Natalie Hedde says the company has temporarily suspended natural gas and electric service disconnections for nonpayment, and natural gas and electric crews will continue to provide service by responding to calls and completing work orders.
“If you see Vectren crews performing work, please avoid approaching them and continue to practice social distancing,” she said.
There have been reports of scams following the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Hedde. If customers have questions or concerns, they are advised to call Vectren. Customers should not offer up payment to someone seeking payment by phone call or email. Customers who would like to discuss payment options should call 800-227-1376.
DP&L will not disconnect any customer’s service for nonpayment in order to give customers experiencing financial hardship extra time to make payments, according to spokeswoman Mary Ann Kabel.
“We will continue to read automated meters and send bills. Customers should pay what they can to avoid building up a large balance that will be difficult to pay off later,” she said.
Customers enrolled in Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) who fall behind on their payment plan will maintain eligibility status during the state of emergency.
The Winter Reconnect Order has been extended through May 1. This order allows customers to pay a maximum of $175 to have service reconnected or maintained, including customers who have already used the Winter Reconnect Order during the 2019-2020 winter season.
If you are having trouble paying your DP&L bill, call 800-433-8500 or visit www.dpandl.com.
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