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Help with electric or utility bills.

Find utility bill assistance for low-income families. There are a number of places that offer financial help with  electric, utility, water or heating bills. There are government programs, charities, non-profit organizations and even resources offered by utility companies. Get grant money to pay electric or energy bills, apply for emergency hardship funds, and get assistance paying for a deposit to reconnect utility service.

Emergency financial assistance is provided to pay electric, light, gas and other bills by numerous federal or state government organizations as well as charities. There are also non-profits that may offer grants for paying a portion of an utility or light bill. Or get assistance from payment plans that are offered directly by utility companies or state regulations.

  • Government programs are offered at the federal and state level.
  • Assistance for paying heating bills, including free or low cost fuel or oil, may be offered.
  • Utility companies offer payment plans, free conservation measures, and shut off prevention to their customers.
  • Non-profits, charities, and social service agencies may have limited cash assistance to help with paying electric and light bills.
  • There are many local resources as well, and find utility assistance near you.

A struggling customer should always contact their utility company to find out about any programs they offer. Many utilities offer financial help via shareholder or community funded emergency payment assistance programs. These will provide cash assistance, credits, payment plans or allow the household to enter into a budgeting program. These solutions can help pay for a portion of any overdue utility bill, or they can offset the costs of cooling and heating homes.

Some utility companies provide additional financial assistance for paying utility bills to the vulnerable, such as the elderly, disabled, veterans, or single moms. Other providers offer payment plans to help customers manage their energy bills, such as balanced payment plans. These will charge you a fixed amount each month so you can better budget your electric bill costs.

Countless non-profit agencies and charities offer emergency financial assistance to help a family keep their lights or power on. Free government, low-income hardship grants can also both help pay energy bills or the money may be used to pay for conservation measures. Look into the organizations or programs below.




Government utility bill assistance

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Block Grant is funded by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and provides two basic types of services. Eligible low-income persons, via local governmental and nonprofit organizations, can receive financial assistance to offset the costs of heating and/or cooling dwellings and/or have their dwellings weatherized to make them more energy efficient. Information on LIHEAP by state.

Applications for the program are usually processed by community action agencies. These non-profits also have information on many other resources that may be able to help with paying utility bills. Find how to get help with heating bills from assistance programs offered by your local utility companies, charities and local government. The community action agency staff are often a great resource.

LIHEAP crisis programs can be an option for low income families that are faced with an emergency such as a disconnection or that are very low on heating oil or fuel. Grants and financial assistance can be paid out directly to your energy company for your unpaid bill. The funds can be expedited to households that are faced with a shut off of their electric or utility service. The LIHEAP crisis program may even provide grants within 24 business hours in some cases.

The Weatherization Assistance Program will provide free energy conservation and weatherization services to those in need to help improve the energy efficiency of homes. Some services included are weatherstripping, wall and attic insulation, minor home repairs, and furnace tune ups. There may be other related energy saving measures that will help people lower their electric bills and save money. More on weatherization assistance.

The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) will provide financial help to eligible households who need assistance paying bills. Applications are available for senior citizens and the disabled before others, and they receive priority to any funds. The resources provided will offset the costs of paying for the heating and/or cooling bills of dwellings.

Regulations on Heating and Utility Disconnections - Most states have laws that regulate when an utility company can disconnect a customers service. Typically they state that companies can’t disconnect your power during the cold winter or hot summer months. Families with children often have additional laws protecting them, as well as if the customer has a medical need. Learn more on utility disconnection laws.

Telephone and Internet - Low income families can receive discounts on their monthly phone bills from Lifeline, free cellular phones, or even savings on their high speed cable Internet connection. Some of these services are combined with other electric bill programs as well, such as LIHEAP, so a customer will automatically be eligible for them. Continue reading on telephone and internet programs.





State Assistance Programs - Many states offer additional assistance programs, in addition to LHEAP, that can help you and your family with paying utility or heating bills. There may also be programs that will help you save energy by reducing your electric bills through energy saving methods, such as the installation of new appliances, free insulation, etc. Non-profits as well as state government assistance may be available for utility bills.

Heating Repair Replacement Program (HARRP) - This is another federal government funded program that is usually offered by your local community action agency. It may be called slightly different names in each state, bit it works the same in most parts of the country. It is often used in conjunction with the Weatherization program. It can provide for the repair or replacement of heating units, appliances, furnaces, and other home upgrades. Read more Heating Repair and Replacement programs.

Free air conditioning units and window fans are available during the summer months. The assistance is usually provided as part of LIHEAP or charities such as the Salvation Army provide them to low income families. The free AC units are often combined with emergency utility bill assistance to help keep a struggling family cool. Most of the systems are given to senor citizens, the disabled, or low income single mothers or parents. Find details on free air conditioners.

Help to turn on electric - Once a shut off has occurred, it can be difficult for customers to reconnect their utilities in a timely manner. This is especially true of very low income families with limited or no money available to them. There are assistance programs that households can use to turn on their power, whether it is lights, electric, or heat. Find how to get help to turn on utilities.

Heating bill assistance programs

Free and Discounted Home Heating Oil. The Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program has delivered millions of gallons of discounted and free home heating oil to elderly households. There is also assistance for lower income households that are struggling. There is support for those living in poverty or impacted by an emergency, such as a job loss. Find how to get free heating oil and fuel.

Another option is to use a home heating oil buying network. Companies that offer this service are in effect acting as a wholesale heating fuel oil buying club that provide individuals with lower priced heating oil. Heating oil networks provide extensive savings to households of all income levels.

Some families rely on firewood and need help. It may be either pellets, seasoned logs or wood, or something similar. Both government programs as well as charities will try to help low income households that use this as a source of heat. There may be free firewood given out, vouchers, financial assistance to pay for this source of utilities or heat, or some other form of aid. the goal is to keep the home warm. Read more on where to get free firewood.

Winter Protection Programs and Plans are seasonal resources that are generally offered during the colder winter months. Some states require that utility and natural gas companies offer these plans to all customers. Households that are facing a disconnection of their utilities or heating service, but that have a senior member, young child, or someone that is sick or disabled, may be protected from a shut off of their account as long as they enter into some sort of payment program. More on winter protection plans.





Financial resources and weatherization services offered by utility companies

Utility Company Assistance Programs. Most utility companies and energy providers located around the nation provide their customers with a large number of financial assistance programs. The resources range from cash grants to credits on an account for any bills in arrears and weatherization options.

Programs are even offered by utility companies themselves. Find a list of utility company energy assistance programs by states and utility company.

Balanced Payment Plans - These are offered by many utility companies as a way to help pay as well as manage your bills. These plans provide the customer a way of paying their electric bill that is a flat rate per month. So families can budget for the seasonal spikes in their heating or cooling costs.

It will ensure your utility bill, and the payments you need to make, do not dramatically increase during the winter or summer months. For example, if your annual electric bill is $960 per year, you may pay a flat fee of $80 per month, rather than paying a higher amount in the summer or winter.

Air conditioning bills, fans, and summer help - Many states, in particular those in the south and west, provide financial assistance during the summer for paying cooling and electric bills. Emergency cash assistance, grants, and more may be offered, such as free box fans or AC units. Read more summer electric bill assistance.

Home Energy Audit - Many utility companies will offer these as a free service, or provide it for a very low fee. These audits will help a homeowner identify where your home needs to be improved or updated in order to help reduce your energy usage. If an audit identifies an area that you can improve, some utility companies will even contribute towards the expense that is incurred to fix the home, if you meet their income criteria.

Assistance with water bills - Many companies offer payment plans, rebates, or financial help. There are also government grants from the LIHWAP (Low Income Household Water Assistance Program) as well as emergency funds from charities. Learn more on the options that you have for water bill help. Companies also provide free audits that can reduce your usage.



Non-profit organizations that provide electric or light bill help

Community Action Agencies - Almost 1,500 counties across the country have local, non-profit organizations known as Community Action Agencies. These organizations often administer as well as accept applications for various energy assistance programs, including LIHEAP. The agencies can also refer you to additional resources in your local area. Read more on how to get utility bill assistance from community action agencies.

Dollar Energy Fund - Several states, including WV, TN, PA, OH, MD, CA, TN, CT, TX, KY and VA participate in this charitable program. It has been in existence for almost 30 years and relies on donations. Hundreds of thousands of people have received grants for paying their utility as well as heating bills from the Dollar Energy Fund.

Free Legal Assistance- Most states have non-profit law firms that can advise low to moderate income individuals, the elderly, and disabled on their legal rights when it comes to utility service disconnections. There is priority given to people with a medical condition or that are elderly. Lawyers can provide free legal advice and will do what they can to help the individual keep their power on.

Operation Roundup - An assistance program offered by many utility companies. They will provide cash grants to help pay utility, heating, and other bills. For example, you can even get help with rent, medical expenses, or food aid. Operation Round Up is also provided by many small utility company cooperatives.







Prevention programs also focus on customers that have a disconnection notice from their utility company or that are close to receiving a shut off notice. Some programs are government run others are available at local charities. Shut-off protection plans helps with everything from electric to heat as well as light bills, and many low income families can get their service on. More on resources to prevent utility shut offs.

Salvation Family Emergency Services - Low families in a crisis can always turn to The Salvation Army for financial help or referrals. The Salvation Army Family Emergency Services addresses basic human need by providing a "safety net" for those who need help paying bills and have nowhere else to turn to. They will provide clothing, food, utility bill assistance and also counseling.

Case workers at the Family Emergency Services help prevent homelessness through crisis intervention. Since having your power shut off is one form of homelessness, the agency may be able to help with this. Contact your local Chapter for more information. Find a listing of Salvation Army, Community Action Agencies and other non-profits in your area.

The National Fuel Funds Network - This is a nationwide, non-profit organization that is comprised of hundreds of community action agencies, utility companies, fuel banks, and other agencies. They are involved in raising money for charitable causes, advocating on behalf of the poor, and offering other help and guidance. All funds raised go towards helping families pay their electric and heating bills or paying for conservation measures. Learn more on National Fuel Funds Network energy bill programs.

Union Members Discounted Heating Oil - If you are the member of a labor union, Union Plus offers a discount program for buying heating oil. It can also help provide natural gas or propane. Through the program provider, HEAT USA, the Union Plus Home Heating Oil Discount provides a discounted or free service contract.

Energy Saving Tips - Find the best ways to save money. These mostly free energy saving tips from top publications and non-profits can help people reduce their annual expenditures on their utilities. You can easily lower your energy bills by 10-40%. Find how to save money on bills.

Need Additional Assistance? Send us an email to  Please include your state. This information is needed in order to send a reply to your request for energy bill help. Or register in the community forum (link below) and we will reply to your message for utility bill help there.

By Jon McNamara

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