Comedian Spike Milligan once joked that “And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light, but the Electricity Board said He would have to wait until Thursday to be connected.”

Electricity, gas and water play a major role in everyday life. People rely on these utilities and going without them can be a great hardship and can even be life threatening.  During these past summer months, many people turned up their air conditioners and fans as the heat index rose to over 100 degrees, which may have caused a corresponding surge in an electric bill that the consumer may not have the ability to pay. In order to address this problem and avoid utility shut-offs, there are programs and protections available to utility customers.

Pennsylvania law requires that most utility companies have programs to help low-income customers keep their utility service. The following is an overview of some of those programs. 

LIHEAP – Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

WAP – Weatherization Assistance Program

Winter Shut-off Protection

  • December 1st through March 31st

  • Protections from termination for qualified low-income families

Special Disconnection Protections

  • Usually must show that customer suffers from financial hardship and/or is part of vulnerable group

  • Applies only to regulated utilities

  • Financial hardship, elderly, low-income

  • Serious illness or disability

  • Payment plan may be necessary

  • Duration and renewability vary

  • Consumers remain responsible for current and past due bills

Budget Billing

  • Available to all customers at no cost

  • Attempts to even out energy bills each month (no highs in summer/winter)

  • Annual utility costs divided over 12-month period

  • One regular monthly payment

  • Adjustments can be made for higher/lower usage

  • Allows for more precise budget

CAP - Customer Assistance Program

  • Trouble paying your utility bills

  • CAP can lower monthly utility bill

  • Income evaluation required – calculation based on percentage of income or discounted rate

  • On time payments required

  • Full payments required

These are just some of the programs that available to assist consumers with managing their utility bills. For a complete list of the programs, you can also visit the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission website at http://www.puc.state.pa.us/consumer_info/electricity/energy_assistance_programs.aspx. You may also visit the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (PULP) website at http://www.rhls.org/utilities/pulp/. For information about your eligibility for programs, contact your utility company.