Program helps residents who are behind on utility billsWritten by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Representatives from Columbia Gas, Economic Opportunity Planning Association (EOPA) and United Way of Greater Toledo encourage people who are having a difficult time paying their utility bills this winter to seek help before services are turned off.
“Some people don’t have utilities. Some people are facing disconnection. Anytime this is happening it’s an issue,” said Tomeka Rushing, EOPA’s Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) coordinator, during an Oct. 18 press conference. “What we want to tell customers is, help is available. Customers just need to be proactive.”
Between Oct. 18 and April 15, as part of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s Winter Reconnect Program, customers can have their gas service restored for $175.
Customers can pay to have gas service turned back on as long as they sign up for a payment plan to deal with past-due balances of their utility bill, said Chris Kozak on Columbia Gas of Ohio. Each customer gets one chance for the $175 reconnection during the winter, he said.
To reconnect services, Columbia Gas customers can call (800) 344-4077.
People who cannot afford the reconnect charge can, starting Nov. 1, receive assistance from EOPA’s HEAP to help pay the fee required to turn on gas.
Individuals can begin making appointments for HEAP assistance starting at the end of October. Contact EOPA at (866) 504-7392 for an appointment.
Bill Kitson, president and CEO of United Way, encouraged individuals who have trouble making payments to seek help right away, before problems escalate. If people don’t know where to seek assistance, they can call United Way’s 2-1-1 and be connected to the correct services, he said.
The Joint Utility and Social Services Committee will host information fairs throughout the community for those seeking help with utility bills, rental and medical assistance and foreclosure prevention, among others. The next event will be Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Chester Zablocki Senior Center, 3015 Lagrange St. Participating agencies include EOPA, Columbia Gas of Ohio, the City of Toledo, First Energy, The Salvation Army and more.
Families looking for ways to save on their heating costs can look at Page A13 of the Oct. 24 Toledo Free Press for a special mail-in offer for an energy saving programmable thermostat.