Consumers for Fair Utility Rates offers advice to prepare for upcoming winter
by Tim Walters
(Plain Press, October 2007) As winter approaches, many in the community are finding that they will need help to either get utilities reconnected or stop disconnections. Once again, Consumers For Fair Utility Rates intends to work to help the community learn what is available and how to how get help when it is needed.
The Winter Reconnect Order will become effective October 16th. This program requires public utilities to reconnect or maintain service to customers who have been disconnected or threatened with disconnection due to nonpayment of utility bills.
Under the plan, customers who have had service disconnected because of nonpayment can have their service restored if they pay the amount owed or $175, whichever is less, plus a service reconnection fee of no more than $20. Regulated natural gas and electric utilities are required to reconnect service on the same business day on current accounts if customers make the payment and notify the company before 12:30 p.m., or the following business day if the payment is made after 12:30 p.m.
Keep in mind that this is for regulated utilities and does not include Cleveland Public Power. Cleveland Public Power has honored the winter reconnect order in the past but has had somewhat different rules. We will find out more on this and advise you in the November Issue of the Plain Press. Also remember that you can only use the Winter Reconnect Order once for each utility in a winter season (October 15th thru April 16th).
The E-Heap program (emergency assistance) goes into effect on November 1st. This programs provides financial assistance to those who have been disconnected or are trying to get reconnected and do not have the money to do so. You must satisfy income eligibility requirements and make an appointment with one of our local agencies. Again, this information is still coming in and updates will be available later in October.
It is important to understand that while the Winter Reconnect Order goes into effect on October 15th; the E-Heap program that provides financial assistance does not go into effect until 15 days later on November 1st. This means that if you use the winter reconnect order between those two dates, you will have to come up with the $175 yourself.
Consumers for Fair Utility Rates will hold a community meeting on October 29th in the evening to provide additional, updated information about utility assistance programs. Representatives of the Cleveland Housing Network will be there to take E-Heap applications. No appointment is necessary and applications will be taken on a first come first served basis.
The community meeting location has not been finalized at press time. Call Tim Walters at 631-5800 for that information.
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