Curb your consumption, cut down energy costs

Natalie Pillsbury

Assistance offered for heating costs

Winter heating costs are always difficult to manage, and this year’s harsh hurricane season is expected to cause an approximately 45 percent increase, said Theresa Italia, a caseworker for Kent Social Services.

Some local apartment complexes and other rental facilities that include utilities in the price of rent will charge tenants extra to cover the costs.

University Inn on Water Street will apply $10 to $20 per month surcharges for the winter months, beginning next winter, said James Mt. Castle, manager of University Inn. This applies to rooms rented on a long term basis.

A $2.50 to $3.50 fee is already in effect for rooms booked on a per-night basis.

The Salvation Army offers assistance to households whose gas or electric has been disconnected because of non-payment. This aid is available every six months.

“We’re going to be inundated,” Italia said. “People have already started to call for assistance.”

Prices for propane, natural gas and electric energy are expected to increase astronomically, Italia said.

This bi-yearly assistance program provides about $175 per single adult toward disconnected utilities.

“It depends on the person’s bill and how much they owe, not the size of the family,” said Jacki Blanchard, a pastor who oversees Social Services.

Energy Share, another aid program available through the Salvation Army, is funded through Dominion East Ohio Gas Company, but the funds are not available until January of each year.

The Salvation Army helps approximately 400 households per year, and these mostly consist of single parents, students, single adults and the elderly.

To apply for assistance through the Salvation Army, call 330-296-7371.

There are numerous other options available for aid in energy payment in Ohio.

One option is the budget billing program, which allows consumers who are current on their payments to spread the amount they owe over a 12-month period. Contact your utility company for more information.

Another option is a payment plan which allows disconnected consumers to propose a payment plan that works for them. If the proposed plan is denied, the utility company must provide a one-third or one-sixth option. These plans require a payment of either one-third or one-sixth of the past due balance each month.

The Home Energy Assistance Program is another aid option for consumers. This provides a one-time payment during the winter toward an energy bill for consumers whose income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Consumers can apply for HEAP September 2005 through March 31, 2006. To get an application, call 1-800-282-0880.

There is also an Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program for those whose utilities have been disconnected, have received a disconnection notice or have less than a 10 day supply of bulk fuel. Applications will be accepted from Nov. 1 through March 31, 2006.

The Percentage of Income Payment Plan allows consumers who fall at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level to pay a percentage of their income towards their utility bills. The remaining balance is rolled over each month, and consumers are responsible for paying the balance when they no longer qualify for PIPP.

The above information on assistance options has been provided by the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel.

For more information on financial assistance with heating bills call the OCC at 1-877-742-5622.

Contact public affairs reporter Natalie Pillsbury at [email protected].