Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Energy shutoff moratorium ends Saturday; energy assistance available

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The state’s winter utility shutoff moratorium ends on Saturday, and the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) is reminding customers enrolled in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) of available assistance programs, payment arrangements, and energy efficiency programs to help customers with their utility bills.

Under state law, NIPSCO and all Indiana electric and gas utilities may not disconnect service to LIHEAP customers who are behind on their bills during the winter heating season: Dec. 1 through March 15.

“This winter’s near-record frigid temperatures resulted in higher bills,” NIPSCO said in a statement released today. “January and February heating bills this winter were approximately $30 more each month than the same months last year--a direct result of the increase in usage by more than 30 percent over that same timeframe.”

In part of NIPSCO’s service area, January had 21 days below 32 degrees and 11 days with overnight lows of zero or below. In February, 23 of the 28 days were below 32 degrees and nine days had overnight lows of zero or below.

Compared to last winter, about 15 percent more customers have received LIHEAP assistance and the average amount of assistance funds provided is up seven percent.

“Help is still available, and it is important that any customer experiencing difficulty with their bills contact us, regardless of their situation” said Debora Owen, NIPSCO’s vice president of customer operations. “It’s been a challenging winter and we want to help find solutions, especially for those who need it most.”

Households in need of bill payment assistance are urged to contact NIPSCO at (800) 4NIPSCO (464-7726) 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday to be connected with available assistance options, including:

* Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Program: LIHEAP support is available to households falling within 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines, and is fully funded by a federal block grant offered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Applications for heating assistance will be taken through May 17.

* NIPSCO Customer Assistance for Residential Energy (CARE) Discount Program: The NIPSCO CARE Discount Program is designed to provide further bill reductions to LIHEAP-eligible customers. Applications are made at the same time as LIHEAP submissions, and reductions range from 11 to 26 percent, depending on the same criteria used by the state in determining the level of assistance. Applications will be taken through May 17,

* NIPSCO Hardship Program: For customers just outside the federal poverty guidelines for LIHEAP, the NIPSCO Hardship Program offers up to $200 in gas bill assistance to households between 151-200 percent of the federal poverty level. Hardship funds are available through many of the same local Community Action Agencies where LIHEAP funds are distributed. Applications for Hardship assistance will be taken through May 31.

* Township trustees: A limited amount of energy assistance funds are available through local township trustees’ offices via tax revenues. NIPSCO customers are encouraged to contact their local township trustee to see what help is available.

* Payment arrangements: a NIPSCO payment arrangement allows eligible customers to make an initial payment within four days of the agreement, then spread the remaining unpaid balance over three months, plus current bills as they are due.

For information on billing options and payment assistance, see NIPSCO.com/PaymentAssistance

 

Posted 3/24/2014