Unpaid utility bills threaten disconnections, causing immense stress, but thankfully, numerous financial aid programs can help low-income families keep their lights on.

Help with Electric or Utility Bills

Government Assistance

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Federally funded program offering financial help for heating and cooling bills. Offers both emergency and ongoing support. Priority for seniors, disabled individuals, and low-income families. Find LIHEAP assistance in your state and contact your local agency to apply.

  • Weatherization Assistance Program
    • Provides free energy-saving improvements to your home. For more details check out Weatherization Assistance.
    • Helps lower your long-term electric bills.
  • Utility Disconnection Regulations
    • State laws often protect vulnerable customers by preventing utility companies from disconnecting service during extreme weather conditions (heat or cold).
    • Additional protections may apply to families with young children, the elderly, and those with medical needs that rely on electricity.
    • To understand the specific regulations in your state, search for “[your state] utility disconnection laws” or contact your local public utilities commission.

Utility Company Assistance Programs

  • Payment Plans and Bill Forgiveness
    • Many utility companies offer flexible payment plans and potential bill forgiveness to customers in need.
  • Energy Audits
    • Companies may provide free or low-cost energy audits to help you identify areas for energy savings.
  • Summer Cooling Assistance
    • Programs in specific states help with air conditioning expenses during hot months.

Charity Organizations

  • Community Action Agencies
    • Local non-profits often administer LIHEAP and offer additional resources for paying utility bills.
  • Churches
    • Faith-based organizations may provide limited financial help or referrals.
  • Dollar Energy Fund
    • Operates in multiple states, providing grants for utility bills.
  • Operation Roundup
    • Utility company-run programs that offer bill assistance and sometimes additional aid (rent, medical, etc.).
  • Salvation Army
    • A national charity offering crisis assistance, including potential utility bill help and referrals.

Additional Resources

  • Telephone and Internet Assistance Programs: Programs like Lifeline (https://www.lifelinesupport.org/) offer discounts on phone and internet services for low-income individuals.
  • Free Legal Aid: Lawyers can advise on your rights regarding utility disconnections and may help you prevent shut-offs.
  • Furnace and HVAC Repair Programs
    • Grants to assist with fixing or replacing heating and cooling systems for those who qualify.
  • Free Air Conditioners
    • Available to eligible individuals during summer months.
  • Help Turning Utilities Back On
    • Emergency assistance to help reconnect service after a shutoff.
  • Energy Saving Tips
    • Simple ways to reduce your energy consumption and lower bills.

Finding Local Assistance

To find specific programs in your area, consider the following:

  • Contact your utility company: Discuss available assistance programs.
  • Visit your local community action agency: They often manage aid programs and provide referrals.
  • Search online: Use resources like [211.org] (http://www.211.org/get-help/utilities-expenses) for local assistance.

Important Notes:

  • Funds for assistance programs are often limited. Apply early and follow the application guidelines carefully.
  • Eligibility requirements vary by program.