JANUARY 13, 1997

 The Edwards Agency

Home & Garden

Programs can help keep the heat on

heating bills If your budget is stretched to the brink by high heating bills, there are programs available to help keep the heat going during the winter months. These programs allow customers to pay for their winter heating throughout the year or to receive some funding to help defray high heating power bills. Also, some programs can act as a stop-gap measure to keep the heat on when there are no other options available.
   The Budget Payment Plan makes budgeting for power bills easier because the customer knows the exact amount due each month. The company determines how much the customer's monthly bill will be by averaging the cost of the energy used the previous year. Budget payment amounts are reviewed every four months and adjusted according to how much gas or electricity each customer is using. The payment plan will automatically be adjusted at the end of the twelve-month budget period so that customers pay only for the energy used. The Budget Payment Plan is available anytime of the year. Because the company can disconnect service for unfulfilled payment arrangements, customers should take care in setting monthly payments to ensure that the obligation can be met over the course of the plan. Call the local power company's business office for further information.
   Energy Assistance Programs are available to help low-income customers pay their expensive heating bills during the cold winter months. Customers may have to meet certain income or age eligibility criteria to receive assistance.
   Community Action Program (CAP) agencies provide direct heating bill assistance using federal grants and eligibility criteria. For more information, call the local CAP agency.
   The Salvation Army Energy Fund, supported by private donations, also can help cover some of the cost of high heating bills. Assistance is typically available at the beginning of January. Call your local Salvation Army directly for more information.
   The Moratorium is an emergency measure that enables low-income individuals who have exhausted all other alternatives to keep their heat on during the winter months. If the payment arrangements under this program are not kept, the company can disconnect a customer's electricity and refuse to reconnect until the entire balance owed to the utility is paid.
   If you have any questions about these programs, please call the WUTC Consumer Affairs Division at 1-800-562-6150.