Utility Bill Assistance – Help Paying Water, Gas And Electric Bills

Are you struggling to stay on top of your bills? If you’re having problems with paying your heating, water, utility and electric bills, there are a number of different places you can turn to for additional help in these areas. A number of federal and state government organisations offer the public several different application methods to apply for energy bill assistance programs.

Along with federal and state government organisations, there’s also a number of different non-profit companies which provide emergency grants that can be used for paying a portion of a bill. These companies can offer solutions like payment plans which can be used directly with utility companies. The following companies may offer some of the following:

  • Utility companies offer shut off prevention, free conservation measures, and payment plans to customers.
  • Government programs and grants are offered to the public at state and federal levels.
  • Heating bill assistance may be offered which includes low cost and/or free oil and fuel.
  • Social services agencies, charities and non-profit organisations may be able to help with paying light bills and electrical bills. Although they tend to have limited cash for assistance.

Contact Your Provider For Assistance
If you find you or someone you know is struggling to keep a track of their electricity cost, you should first contact your electricity provider to see if you are eligible for any payment programs that they may offer. Utility companies tend to have emergency payment assistance programs that are generally funded by communities or shareholders which they may be able to help you with. In cases such as this they may provide credits, cash assistance, or household budgeting plans. All these solutions can help with offsetting heating and cooling costs within homes. These will also help to reel in escalating electricity bills.

If you need additional help and assistance, there’s also other options and plans that can be used.

For example - some utility companies can help you manage your rising electricity bill through selected payment plans such as balanced payment plans. These types of plans will offer a fixed amount that will be charged each month for easier budgeting of the costs of your electrical bill. This helps take away any large electricity bills that may come as a surprise.

In other cases, to help keep the lights on for families, there are countless charities and non-profit agencies which offer emergency financial assistance. The use of free government grants can be used to pay for conservation measures or to pay your energy bills.

Rebates or vouchers from government or utility providers
In other cases, you may be eligible for specific rebates or vouchers from utility providers or from the government. To find out if there are any rebates or vouchers for your situation it’s best to contact your government agency or utility provider for more information. The following are government assistance programs that you may be eligible for depending on your situation.

*For emergency help paying utility bills or keeping services from being shut down:
- Contact your service provider first
- Reach out to your local Community Action Agency (CCA). They will be able to assist you with the local organizations that provide the services listed below

Government Assistance Programs

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program Block Grant
Funded by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the LIHEAP or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program Block Grant provides two types of services. Low income individuals who are eligible can receive additional financial assistance to offset cooling or heating costs within their home or have their home weatherized to promote more energy efficiency. This is generally through non-profit organizations and local government agencies. Community action agencies generally process program applications. Along with this, they may also offer key information along with other resources which may be able to help or assist with paying the utility bills.

LIHEAP Crisis Programs
LIHEAP crisis programs are capable of providing financial help to low income families which are faced with emergency situations. These may include very low heating fuel, low heating oil and disconnection issue. Financial assistance and grants can easily be paid out directly to your provider for any unpaid bills. This financial assistance can be used for households which face utility or electric shut off.

Weatherization Assistance Program
The Weatherization Assistance Program can help in providing free weatherization services and energy conservation to those in need. This can help with improving overall energy efficiency within the home. Some of the services which may be available include minor home repairs, weather stripping, furnace tune-ups and attic/wall insulation. There may also be other energy saving measures which are related that can help with lowering electric bills and saving money.

Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) can help to provide additional finances to assist with paying bills for eligible households. Generally, applications are provided before others for disabled and senior citizens. This majority will receive priority to any additional funding available. These resources can help to provide additional financial help that can offset the cost of heating and cooling bills within homes.

Heating Repair Replacement Program (HARRP)
Another funded program by the federal government that’s available is the Heating Repair Replacement Program. This is usually provided by a local community action agency. Under different states it can be referred to as something different, but it still works the same in most areas of the country. Generally, it’s often used in combination with the weatherization program and can provide replacement or repairs of heating units, furnaces, appliances and other household upgrades.

State Assistance Programs
Many states offer community members additional assistance programs that can help pay for different utility bills. Other programs are also available which can help you save energy by reducing electric bills via a number of methods that save energy. These include free insulation of new energy efficient appliances and tips on when and how to use appliances for maximum savings.

Utility Company Assistance Programs

Many energy providers are able to and do help their customers with a variety of financial assistance programs. These resources range from credits to cash grants on accounts for bills that are in weatherized and arrears situations. Some of these assistance programs include:

Balanced Payment Plans (bill smoothing)
Balanced payment plans are designed to help manage and pay your bills – also called bill smoothing. These types of plans are provided to individuals and are a way to help them pay their energy bill at a flat rate per month. This helps all families to budget for cooling and heating costs in seasonal spikes. This helps to make sure your utility bill and any payments don’t increase dramatically during summer or winter.

As an example - if your annual electric bill is roughly $600 per year, the flat rate for a payment plan may be $50 per month. This offers a much easier payment solution than having to pay a higher amount in one go. It’s a great budgeting tool that can be used across most bills.

Energy Assistance Programs
There are also a number of different energy assistance programs in addition to LIHEAP which are at the federal, local and state level. Some of these programs are offered by utility companies as well. A large variety of state, especially those in the west and south of the country offer financial assistance during peak summer periods for paying electric bills and cooling bills. You may be offered grants, emergency cash assistance and more depending on your situation. In some cases, you may receive a free AC unit or box fan.

Home Energy Audit
Home energy audits are usually offered as free services or can be provided at a very low fee rate. Audits such as this are designed to help homeowners identify key areas of the home that can be updated and improved in order to help with lowering energy usage. If your audit does identify a key area for improvement, there are some utility companies which will contribute towards any expenses which may be incurred in order to rectify this situation, as long as you meet their income criteria.

Water Bill Assistance
Across the country American Water has subsidies in operation. They offer customers two different types of programs which can help customers pay their bills more effectively. These programs include:

  • H2O – Help To Others
  • Low Income Payment Plan

They’re also able to help provide additional free audits which can help to target key areas where you may be able to reduce your water usage.

Regulations on Utility Disconnections

Generally, most states have specific laws which regulate when utility companies can shut off and disconnect a service to a customer. In a typical scenario, your energy provider isn’t allowed to disconnect your service during hot summer months and cold winter months. Additionally, families which feature young children have protection laws along with those who have medical conditions.

Free Legal Assistance
Most states across the country have legal firms which provide advice to low and moderate income, disabled and elderly individuals about their rights when it comes to disconnection of utility services. People with medical conditions or the elderly are given priority. Lawyers are able to help where they can to keep the power on and can provide free legal advice in this area. Learn more about free legal services here.

Non-Profit Help

Churches that help with utility bills
There are thousands of churches across the country that assist those in need across a range of services, including help with paying utility bills and other important household needs. There are both national and local networks that work together along with government departments to help those dealing with financial hardship – Get more info on churches that help with household bills.

Free and Discounted Home Heating Oil Programs
The Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program has offered and delivered gallons of free and discounted home heating oil to elderly households and those who are struggling in lower income households. There’s also support for many people who are living in poverty, or those who are impacted greatly by an emergency like a sudden job loss. Another option that you can use is a home heating oil buying network. There are some companies which provide this specialized service and delivers individuals lower priced oil for heating.

Winter Protection Programs and Plans are generally offered during the winter months of the year and are referred to as seasonal resources. There are some states which require natural gas and utility companies to offer all their customers these plans. Protection measures may be enforced for households which may be at risk of utility disconnection. These protected households may be eligible if they have a young child, senior member or someone who is disabled or sick living with them, and as long as they enter a specified payment plan.

Dollar Energy Fund
The Dollar Energy Fund is available in a number of east coast states. For almost 30 years, this program has been in operation and has help thousands of people to receive grants to help with paying their heating and utility bills.

Operation Roundup
Operation Roundup is a specialized assistance program which is offered by a number of companies. This program is designed to offer cash grants that can be used to help pay heating, utilities and other bills. In addition, you can also get help for food, medical expenses and rent.

In addition to the above popular programs, there are numerous other non-profits working at grass root levels providing assistance with utility bills and more.

Energy Saving Tips

When looking to save energy look for top tips from high end publications and non-profit organizations as these can help to reduce your annual expenditures on utilities. In doing this you may be able to lower your energy bill by 10%-40%. The following are some great ideas on how you can save money and do your bit for the environment:

  • Switch any heating or cooling devices off in rooms that you’re not in.
  • Buy energy efficient appliances when purchasing new ones. You can download the Energy Rating App to help see the differences in running costs.
  • To keep heat in of the night, keep your blinds and curtains drawn.
  • Use a door snake to cover the crack under the door.
  • Use a jumper or additional layers of clothes instead of a heater.
  • Turn all unused electrical appliances off at the wall socket when not in use.
  • Always use energy efficient light bulbs.
  • When no-one is using them turn off computers and TVs.
  • Only use dishwashers and washing machines when they’re full.
  • Water your plants using grey water from your shower and washing machine.
  • Have 3 - 5 minute showers.
  • Wash clothes using only cold water only.
  • Install a shower head that offers more water efficiency.

These helpful tips are great for reducing your overall costs and bills for more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

Low Income Loans
If you are in a situation, where you may not qualify for any of the above programs and need a bridging loan to get you over. There are numerous low income loan options that can help with your finances until your next pay (not payday loans).

Borrowing money to pay for utility bills should be a last resort and should not be considered if it will put you in a worst financial situation. Speaking with a free financial counsellor is highly recommended

Additional Help Paying Bills Include:

- Help with rent
- Low income subsidies
- Guide to discounts
- Help with food