Company customers who are having difficulty paying their heating bills are encouraged to contact the utility now to sign up for payment plans or to receive referrals for billing assistance programmes.
More than 55 million Americans struggled to pay energy bills in 2021, and millions more will likely struggle this year.
Heating bills have increased about 17 percent across the country, costing about $177 on average and reaching the highest cost in more than a decade, according to a Sept. 12, 2022 report from the National Association of Energy Assistance Administrators. But how area residents heat their homes and where they actually live determines how much heating bills will increase.
“Many of our customers continue to experience financial challenges due to continued economic uncertainty,” said Patricia Mullen, Acting President of Ohio Operations for FirstEnergy. “With winter in full swing, I encourage customers who have fallen behind on their bills to contact us as soon as possible so that a member of our team can review their options with them.”
Some of the programs that Ohio clients may qualify for include:
• Percentage Income Payment Plan (PIPP): This plan allows customers to pay a set percentage of their income from their electricity bill, regardless of the balance. Customers who maintain their payment plans may qualify for debt forgiveness. Eligible clients must have incomes at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. To apply, call 1-800-282-0880 or visit www.energyhelp.ohio.gov.
• Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP): The program provides eligible customers with cash grants for home heating bills and emergencies. Clients’ gross income must be at or less than 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Call the Ohio Department of Development at 1-800-282-0880 or visit us www.energyhelp.ohio.gov for more information.
• 2-1-1 Helpline: This national resource identifies locally available programs that may assist customers with utility bills or other needs. For more information, call 211 or visit the 211 website.
• Save the Dream Ohio – Utility Assistance Plus (UAP): This program provides Ohio homeowners facing economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic with assistance with paying mortgages, utility bills, unsecured property taxes, and other eligible housing costs. The family may receive up to $10,000 in utilities and/or assistance with housing costs. This portion of Save the Dream Ohio is administered by participating local nonprofit agencies including the Community Action Agency and the District Agency on Aging. A list of participating organizations can be found at https://savethedream.ohiohome.org.
• Emergency Rental Assistance: Customers who are having difficulty paying utilities, rent or mortgage due to the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for a Home Relief grant. Visit COHHIO – Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio – at https://cohhio.org/To find an agency near you.
• Emergency Hardship Funds: These funds may be available for residential customers who have recently experienced financial hardship and need temporary assistance with their electricity bill. Illuminating customers can apply for Co-Op funds for the Cleveland Salvation Army at 216-861-8185, or for an Ohio fuel fund by calling Housing Partners CHN or Step Forward at 8008-350216.
In addition, a $175 winter reconnection option gives residential customers who are not connected or at risk of being disconnected the opportunity to pay $175 to restore or maintain their service. There is no income eligibility requirement. PIPP customers who use this option may be eligible to reset the previous outstanding amount.
For a full list of assistance programs customers may qualify for, including installment payment plans and budget billing, please visit www.firstenergycorp.com/billassist Or call the Illuminating Company customer service at 1-800-589-3110.
Illuminating serves approximately 755,000 customers across Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties.