First Person: Heating and Energy Assistance for the Poor

Yahoo Contributor Network

Sometimes weatherizing, hanging blankets, plastic wrapping the windows and stuffing towels under the doors isn't enough to bring a heating bill down to a budgetable range. This typically happens when the individual or family has extremely low income. Thankfully, there are ways to manage winter heating bills. Electric companies and gas companies have programs available for the very poor and families and individuals experiencing temporary hardships.

Electric Company

Electric companies are willing to work with the disadvantaged. However, the individual or family must be willing to communicate with the electric company. My electric company has two billing programs to help individuals, who are short on cash, including short term and long term extensions.

Short Term Extension

A short term extension splits the current electric bill in half and delays the first payment by seven days. The remainder of the bill is added to the next month. I utilize this option three to four times a year, depending on my financial circumstances.

For Example:

If my current electric bill is $130 and due on the 11th, a short term extension will reduce the current payment to $65 due on the 17th. The remaining $65 will be added to my next electric bill.

Long Term Extension

A long term extension splits the current month's bill by 12.

For Example:

With a long term extension, my current electric bill would be reduced to $10.83 and $10.83 would be added to every electric bill for the remaining 11 months.

Energy Efficiency Kit

My electric company also offers a free energy efficiency kit. The kit includes four CFL light bulbs, two low-flow shower heads, three aerators for kitchen and bathroom faucets, a hot water thermometer card and a thermometer for the refrigerator. By ordering this kit, I am saving myself more than $50 in supplies.

Gas Company

My gas company offers two budget plans, including flexible payments and budget payments, and they offer a complete list of charitable organizations that help the economically disadvantaged pay their gas bills.

Flexible Payments

The flexible payment plan is based on an individual or family's financial circumstances. To initiate this payment plan, the individual must contact the gas company and work out payment arrangements.

Budget Payments

Budget payments allow households with gas services the ability to pay 11 months at a pre-determined amount. On the 12th month, the household must pay the remaining balance.

Charitable Organizations

There are several charitable organizations that help families pay their gas bills. To find out the names and phone numbers of those organizations, dial 211 from your cell phone. The number is a nationwide number like 411, except is it a directory of charitable organizations that help families with their heating and cooling costs, home renovations and finding food.

EAP

Energy Assistance Program are available in most cities and communities. In Indianapolis, the EAP program is handled by the Community Action of Greater Indianapolis (CAGI). This organization helps the economically disadvantaged by paying a portion of their gas bills each month during winter. The funds are directly sent to the gas company on behalf of the disadvantaged customer.

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