By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman
Winter weather is already here and Hoosiers who struggle to pay their heating bills need to take action now to ensure they aren’t left in the cold this winter.
The state’s disconnect moratorium for electric and natural gas utilities starts December 1. However, it is only applicable for those who are already enrolled in the Energy Assistance Program, or if an EAP intake office has confirmed their eligibility and notified the utility in writing.
Anthony Swinger, director of external affairs with the Indiana Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor, encourages low-income households to contact a local intake office to apply for the program – sooner rather than later.
“It is much, much more difficult to receive assistance once a consumer is shut off,” says Swinger. “So, preventing the disconnection to begin with is really, really important.”
To qualify for the Energy Assistance Program, household income can be no more than $47,000 a year for a family of four. The disconnect moratorium ends March 15, 2020.
Call 2-1-1 for more information about local utility resources.
Swinger says households who are covered by the disconnect moratorium should continue to pay their heating bills, even if all they can manage is a partial payment.
“The biggest mistake is going several months at a time without making any payment, and then being shut off,” says Swinger. “The best way to stay out of that situation is to keep the lines of communication open with the utility; contact it as early as possible, let it know you need to make payment arrangements.”
Besides the moratorium, the Energy Assistance Program also offers people who qualify a one-time payment to use toward their heating bills. It’s estimated that roughly 108,000 Indiana households receive EAP help each year.