Many government programs are in place to provide utility assistance to citizens. People may face short-term crises due to any medical or other contingencies. Many people are experiencing a shortage in income due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. During such emergencies, it becomes difficult for us to pay utility and other bills. Therefore, many governmental, non-governmental organizations provide
Non-Profit Organizations Utility Assistance
to such people.
The programs may offer grants to pay bills. It includes utility, electricity, heating bills, etc. Sometimes, the applicant may not receive grants, but the service provider will draft a payment plan for such customers. The plan can assist individuals in payment of bills in installments, which include paying some amount after an interval.
So, if you are going through a financial crisis, multiple sources can help you. These sources offer various services through their different programs. Here are the sources you can approach for utility assistance.
- The government has introduced various financial assistance programs that include Utility assistance.
- Many non-profit organizations provide help with utility bill payments.
- Utility Companies provide various facilities to help you in paying utility bills.
Many governmental and non-governmental organizations assist and pay for a part of the utility bills. However, the government offers wide-ranging assistance through its numerous programs across the country. Whereas, the non-profit organizations have limited funding and thus, limited scope in providing utility assistance.
The service providers are most likely to offer different options to you. It can offer you credit and cash assistance and assist you in managing your bill payments. The service provider will try to prevent the termination of the service through its different plans. Therefore, the assistance from the utility companies may focus on managing your budget than providing financial assistance. Now, let us look at the programs offered by these sources in detail.
Government Utility Assistance
The Government has introduced numerous utility assistance programs to benefit its people. These programs are launched by different departments of the federal government. Therefore, the criteria for the programs may differ according to the departments and scope of the program. These programs aim to prevent the termination of utility services because of financial emergencies.
Low Income Home Energy Bill Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
LIHEAP is a national-level utility assistance program. The program offers two types of assistance to low-income families that qualify for the program. It offers weatherization assistance to low-income families to lower their energy costs. Another program provides funds to some households to balance their energy costs.
LIHEAP Crisis Program
Sometimes, when households are unable to pay utility bills for a long time, companies terminate their services. This program provides emergency financial assistance to such people. It provides emergency assistance to households that are experiencing a shut-off of service or are at risk of it. Through the program, the government pays utility bills directly to the service provider. It can also provide grants within 24 hours in some cases.
LIHEAP Weatherization Assistance Program
The weatherization assistance program helps in making homes more energy-efficient. The program provides assistance in the weatherization of cooling and heating dwellings. It also offers services such as furnace tune-ups, home repair, wall, and attic insulation, etc. The program aims at saving energy and lowering costs for the people.
The Department Of Health And Human Resources has the responsibility to fund the program. It has also laid down the eligibility criteria and process for application. To be eligible for the program,
- You must belong to a low-income group. The income criteria will depend on the total income of the household and members of the family.
- You must be able to prove the need for utility assistance.
- At least one of the family members should be registered for at least one of the other government benefit programs.
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
Home Energy Assistance Program provides utility assistance to needy households. The program provides grants to offset the costs of utility bills. The program, however, assists disabled and senior citizens on a priority basis. You can receive assistance in paying bills for various heating sources like coal, natural gas, wood pellets, electricity, etc.
The program provides one-time assistance during a financial year to eligible applicants. The eligibility criteria are mostly based on your income level, primary heating source, presence of a child below the age of 6, and senior citizen above the age of 60 in the family, and the total size of the family.
Homeless Prevention And Rapid Rehousing Programs
When people do not have enough money to pay for utility bills, they often face a shut-off of utility services. This increases the risk of eviction for tenants. To prevent homelessness government offers utility assistance to such tenants under this program. The government provides grants to tenants to pay utility bills and have their services restored.
The HPRP program works with the help of various local non-profit organizations and charities. These organizations work at the local level to ensure the benefits of the programs reach the grassroots. You can apply for the program through Community Action Agency administering in your area.
Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)
TANF is a national-level assistance program that provides financial assistance to families in need. It can include low-income families, families with disabled, veterans, seniors, etc. It offers assistance in housing, food, home energy, utility bill payments, etc. to eligible applicants.
Though the federal government funds this program, state governments execute it in their respective states. Therefore, the program can have different names in different cities. The eligibility criteria and services can also differ according to the needs of the states. A community action agency in your area can guide you through the application process.
Free and Discounted Home Heating Oil Programs
Many state-level programs assist with home heating oil. Since these are state-level programs, the criteria and services may differ in each state. These programs provide free and discounted heating oils to households with senior citizens. Programs also support families with low-income levels and people facing an emergency.
Also, CITGO, in partnership with Citizens Energy, runs a national-level Free Heating Oil program. The program benefits millions of citizens who may fail to pay their bills during winters. The program is running in 20 states in co-operation with many other local organizations to help needy people.
NEA heating oil program is one of the popular assistance programs. The program assists in buying heating oil at cheaper rates. It is available in 12 states.
Telephone Assistance Program
The Telephone Assistance Program assists low-income families in lowering their installation costs and reducing telephone bills. Many government programs provide free cell phones to eligible applicants and some assist in the payment of the bill. The program primarily focuses on helping senior citizens and disabled individuals.
Non-Profit Organizations Utility Assistance
The government distributes funds to various non-profit organizations to reach needy people. These organizations, some charities, and churches introduce their own utility assistance programs for people in need. They all have limited funds and can provide short-term assistance to eligible applicants in times of need.
The Salvation Army is a leading non-profit organization working at the national level to help the poor and less fortunate. It offers a utility assistance program for low-income households who are struggling to pay their utility bills.
The organization offers assistance in the payment of rent, utility bills, medical bills, transport, food, etc. It provides short-term assistance and focuses on making families self-sufficient in the future. The program, however, assists only eligible applicants who meet the criteria.
The criteria are mainly based on the income level of the family and the need for assistance. You can be eligible for the program if you have not received benefits from any other program of the government or Salvation Army in previous years.
Dollar Energy Fund
Dollar Energy Fund is a Charity organization mainly dependent on donations. The organization provides utility assistance to needy people in payment of utility and heating bills. The organization is working for the past 30 years and has benefited thousands of families over three decades.
The charity has limited funds and can provide utility assistance to only some applicants based on the funds available. To apply for their hardship program, you must fill the application form and complete the eligibility criteria.
Community Action Agency
Community action agencies are local-level organizations. These organizations receive funds from the government and various organizations to assist needy people. A CAA in your local area or county can provide you with utility assistance to help you recover from a crisis.
The agency accepts applications for different government programs and can guide you through the process. In case you are not eligible for any of the programs, it can help you explore other options.
Saint Vincent De Paul
It is a national non-profit organization working for the welfare of the poor. It provides assistance and grants to poor people in the payment of rent, utility bills, medical bills, rent, etc. However, the organization has very limited funds and thus, can provide utility assistance to only some eligible applicants. If you meet the criteria, you can receive assistance once a year from the organization.
It is another organization working in various states of the US. The organization, in partnership with many charities and groups, works together to help people in crisis. It assists needy people in many housing-related issues including payment of utility bills. Since the funds are limited, the organization gives preference to low-income seniors and the disabled while distributing funds.
The operation round-up is a combined effort of multiple utility companies to provide utility assistance to people. The program runs largely on the contributions of the customers. It provides utility assistance to needy people. The program is currently available in some states with limited funding. In some cases, it also assists in the payment of rent, medical bills, etc.
Some of the local churches are also linked to the various non-profit organizations. They might also receive funds from the government to help their programs reach the grassroots. These catholic charities can offer utility assistance to some eligible households.
To apply for assistance from them, you can request the local church authorities and present your case. If the charity has funds, it will assist you. It will also suggest other sources if it is unable to assist you.
Free Legal Assistance
Some local charities and organizations have their Law firms in various states. These Law firms can help you in the case of your Utility Services. If a company terminates your utility services, you can visit these firms for legal advice.
The Legal Service Corporation has 900 offices around the country. It provides legal advice to nearly 5 million people per year. The firms generally offer free services to senior citizens, disabled, low-income households, and families with children.
Many of these organizations help you with paying bills. Whereas, some local organizations also have shut-off prevention programs. These programs provide financial assistance to people at the risk of shut off. They also offer counseling and legal advice to people facing shut-offs.
Some of these organizations also accept donations from people to assist in the program. This helps them in receiving more funds to assist more people.
Utility Companies Offering Utility Assistance
The government has various regulations in place to prevent utility companies from shutting off services of low-income households. A company cannot terminate services of families with children, a person with a medical need. The government also prevents companies from terminating services during a hot summer or very cold winter.
The companies, however, cannot provide free services for a longer time. Therefore, utility companies have also introduced various programs to offer utility assistance to their customers.
The focus of Payment plans is to assist you in managing your utility bills. Under the program, many companies provide customers the option to pay a certain amount each month. The option works as EMIs. It helps customers in planning their monthly budget.
Since the person already knows the exact amount he has to pay for the bills, he can plan his other expenses accordingly. It also avoids the hardships you might have to face due to a sudden increase in the bill amount.
Home Energy Audits
Many companies provide Home Energy Audit service to their customers. It helps you in making your home energy efficient. Through this service, you can identify what improvements can be made at your home to reduce energy costs.
The company will suggest you some improvements and may also assist you in the payment of incurred cost. Some utility companies provide this service to their customers free of cost while some may charge lower fees.
Many companies offer utility assistance during the summer. Since our use of cooling units increases during summer, bills also increase exponentially. Some people may find it difficult to pay for these extra costs. Therefore, the companies offer summer help to their customers.
The program can assist in the payment of fan and Air Conditioner bills. It may as well offer some emergency repair assistance for fixing cooling units.
Water Bill Assistance
American Water offers services across the nation and has branches in multiple states. The company offers two plans to help their customers with water bills. These plans are H2O- Help To others, and Low Income Payment Plan. Through the programs, the company offers help in two forms.
Firstly, it will try to manage your bills with plans that customer care offers to you. It does not include financial assistance. If you are unable to pay your bills despite the plans, you will receive grants from the company. The grants can cover 20% of your total monthly bill. In some cases, the company can also provide cash benefits to the customers.
The company, however, offers grants based on some criteria. Your eligibility for utility assistance will depend upon your income, family size, and living conditions.
Energy Assistance Program
Various companies have their own utility assistance programs. The companies may offer you energy assistance if you are facing a short-term crisis. You can call your service provider if you are falling short on your bills. The service provider will either provide you with a plan or give you more time to pay the bills.
If you need utility assistance, you have many options with you. The best way is to contact the Community Action Agency in your area. It will provide you with all the information about programs and sources that provide utility assistance.
The government, utility companies, and non-profit organizations provide assistance depending upon the availability of funds with them. If they have enough funds, they will help as many applicants as possible. However, in case of fund shortage, you might have to search for other options.
Since organizations operate in different states, the eligibility criteria for each program may differ from others. The assistance that companies and organizations offer will also vary in the form of the number of funds and the percentage of bills that they pay for you. Nevertheless, all the programs will assist in the short-term. The main focus of these programs will be on helping you in managing your bills and make you self-sufficient in the future.