Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Moratorium on winter heat shut offs for qualified customers begins on December 1

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With temperatures to fall in the coming weeks, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is reminding Hoosiers about the state’s winter disconnection moratorium and the steps that are necessary to qualify.

Natural gas and electric utilities are allowed to disconnect a customer’s service for non-payment year-round, unless a customer meets specific criteria. Indiana Code specifically prohibits an energy utility from shutting off service between December 1 and March 15 if the customer:

* Receives financial assistance from the federally funded Energy Assistance Program (EAP), available through local Community Action Agencies.

* Or otherwise qualifies for EAP funds, applies for the program at a local Community Action Agency, and provides the utility with written proof of eligibility for assistance.

The EAP’s income qualification is 150 percent of the federal poverty level. A family of four with an annual income of less than $35,325 would qualify, as would an individual making $17,235 or less annually. For the name and location of your nearest Community Action Agency, call (800) 872-0371 toll-free, or visit www.incap.org/cap_agencies.html

The OUCC’s “Winter Disconnection Moratorium” fact sheet is a free publication that answers the most frequently asked questions about the moratorium. It is free and offered in both English and Spanish at www.IN.gov/OUCC

Consumers who do not have Internet access can call the OUCC toll-free at (888) 441-2494 to request a free copy.

Consumers should know the following:

* Every consumer is responsible for paying his or her utility bills, even if covered by the moratorium.

* Any customer who cannot pay a utility bill on time and in full should contact the utility immediately to make payment arrangements. If you need to make payment arrangements, it is crucial that you communicate with the utility as early as possible.

* Information about local financial resources for utility bill assistance is available by dialing 211.

“Communication between consumers and their utilities is critical, especially at this time of year,” said Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor David Stippler. “If a consumer faces financial hardship, he or she should make the utility aware of the situation early, and then keep any payment agreements.”

Even if a consumer is covered under the moratorium, gas and electric services may still be disconnected under certain circumstances defined by law. They include conditions that are dangerous to life, physical safety or property, cases of meter tampering, and cases in which fraudulent or unauthorized use of services is detected.

 

Posted 11/8/2013