By Frank Lewis
With temperatures dropping across the state, Columbia Gas of Ohio is reminding customers about the programs available for utility bill assistance.
“As colder temperatures start moving in, now is the time for customers to evaluate ways they can reduce their home heating costs,” Dan Creekmur, president, Columbia Gas of Ohio, said. “While natural gas bills remain low, we encourage customers to learn more about our energy saving programs and available payment assistance programs.”
Creekmur said customers are encouraged to contact Columbia at the first sign of trouble making a payment to ensure the maximum number of options can be provided for assistance, including the payment plan. Any Columbia Gas of Ohio customer who feels that they might have a problem paying their winter heating bills should call 1-800-344-4077 for assistance in enrolling in a one-sixth, one-ninth or winter heating season payment plan that can make bills easier to handle.
Another feature available is the Winter Reconnect Order. Customers whose service is off for non-payment or who have received disconnection notices can take advantage of this service, mandated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. No matter what amount is owed, service can be restored or maintained with a payment of $175 plus a small reconnection fee. More information is available at: www.PUCO.ohio.gov, or by calling 1-800-686-7826.
Columbia Gas of Ohio also offers the Winter Crisis Program. On Nov. 1, local community action agencies will begin accepting applications for the Winter Crisis Program, formerly known as Emergency HEAP. This program provides assistance once per heating season to eligible households that are disconnected or threatened with disconnection. Customers must sign up for the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) or another payment plan in order to receive these emergency benefits. In some cases, assistance from the Winter Crisis Program can also help to pay for heating system repairs. Applications will be accepted through March 31. Applications must be completed at your local community action agency.
There are several other services available to customers of Columbia Gas of Ohio:
- Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP Plus): Households with income at or less than 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines may be eligible to pay just 6 percent of monthly income or $10, whichever is greater, for their gas bill year-round. If you were previously a PIPP customer, a co-payment of up to your entire PIPP defaulted amount may be required for you to enroll in PIPP Plus.
- HeatShare: Columbia’s fuel fund program combines contributions from our customers, employees, and shareholders with company donations to assist payment-troubled customers who have exhausted other forms of financial help or who have special hardships. To apply for HeatShare, contact your local chapter of The Salvation Army.
- WarmChoice®: Columbia Gas offers an energy inspection and no cost weatherization through its WarmChoice program for customers with household income at or below 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. WarmChoice can reduce customer bills by an average of 30 percent. In addition, customers are left with safe gas heating equipment and a more comfortable home after weatherization is complete. For information go to ColumbiaGasOhio.com or contact the statewide referral service at 1-800-952-3037 (WarmChoice weatherization calls only, please) to be directed to your local provider.
- Columbia Fuel Fund: A fund of last resort – you must have exhausted all other available emergency assistance programs. The fund provides up to $250 per heating season for customers. A disconnection notice is not required. To apply for these funds contact your local Community Action Agency.
Qualified Columbia customers may apply for these funds through their local Community Action Agency. Local agency contact information is available at ColumbiaGasOhio.com or by calling Columbia’s customer contact center at 1-800-344-4077.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.