By Frank Lewis
September 13, 2013
PDT Staff Writer
If you have had your electric or natural gas service cut off or are being threatened with that possibility, you may want to get in touch with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). The PUCO has ordered Ohio electric and natural gas utilities to reconnect or maintain service for customers who have been disconnected or are facing disconnection. Last winter heating season, more than 276,000 Ohio utility customers utilized the PUCO’s winter reconnect program.
“Each year through our winter reconnect order, the PUCO looks to assure Ohio customers facing hardships that their heating service can be established, maintained or reconnected during the winter season,” PUCO Chairman Todd A. Snitchler said.
Under the program customers who are currently disconnected or are facing disconnection can have their service restored or maintained if they pay the amount owed or $175, whichever is less, plus a service reconnection fee of no more than $36. Customers may use the program once during the upcoming winter heating season between Oct. 14, 2013 and April 15, 2014.
Snitchler said there is no income eligibility requirement, but customers are required to sign up for a payment plan to pay any remaining past-due balance on their utility bill. Customers who are at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines may apply for energy assistance through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) toward the $175 amount. If a utility’s reconnection fee is greater than $36, the utility may bill the balance of the reconnection charge to the customer the following month.
Income-eligible customers who wish to re-enroll in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) Plus or Graduate PIPP Plus programs are required to pay the remaining balance of any missed PIPP Plus or Graduate PIPP Plus payments over $175 by the due date of their next bill.
Schnitchler said the winter reconnect program also applies to customers seeking to establish new service. Customers requesting new natural gas or electric service who have no outstanding balance with the utility may establish new service by paying up to $175, rather than paying the required security deposit. Customers who use the winter reconnect program to establish new service may have the remaining balance of the required security deposit added to their next month’s bill.
The winter reconnect program is only available to customers of the PUCO-regulated electric and natural gas utilities that serve approximately seven million residential customers across Ohio. The Commission urges rural electric cooperatives and municipally owned utilities that are not regulated by the PUCO to adopt similar programs.
There are several other state and federal programs available to assist those who qualify. The PUCO suggests that customers explore all options including PIPP Plus, HEAP and the Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP). More information about these programs and additional ways to save on home heating bills this winter is available at Ohio’s Winter Heating Resource website www.winterheat.ohio.gov. Visitors to this site will also find information about budget billing, energy choice and energy conservation.
Snitchler said customers who have questions about the PUCO winter heating season reconnect program may contact the PUCO at 1-800-686-PUCO (7826). To access an electronic copy of today’s Commission order, visit the PUCO’s website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov, click on the link to Docketing Information System and enter the case number 13-1889-GE-UNC.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.