No Joke: Utilities Can be Shut off for Overdue Customers on April 1

HARRISBURG – State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Houtzdale, reminded residents that utilities may terminate electric and natural gas service April 1 for customers with overdue bills.

“It doesn’t matter if a family member has lost a job or suffered a family crisis,” George said. “It’s not right, especially during a recession, but on April 1 the utility can simply pull the plug on electric or natural gas service.”

George said residents with overdue utility bills and facing service termination should first contact their utility. If not satisfied, residents may call the state Public Utility Commission toll-free at 1-800 692-7380.

Another deadline looms for an important lifeline for Pennsylvanians,” George said. “On April 3, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program – LIHEAP – ends for the season.”

LIHEAP offers minimum cash grants of $300 to help families pay heating bills and maximum crisis grants of $800 for heating emergences like utility shutoffs, fuel shortages and equipment failures. An individual making up to $23,110 – and a family of four making up to $44,443 – could qualify.

County assistance offices accept applications for LIHEAP. The numbers for Clearfield County are 765-0684 and toll free at 1-800 862-8941. The toll-free LIHEAP hotline is 1-866 857-7095.

LIHEAP has provided more than $247 million in heating assistance statewide as of March 14. Almost 11,000 LIHEAP applications from residents in Clearfield and Centre counties have been approved this season, providing more than $3.9 million in heating assistance in the two counties.

George said citizens must begin researching how to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient before rate caps on electric-generation charges expire.

“Spring has sprung, at least on the calendar, but deregulation threatens to put Pennsylvanians’ finances in a deep freeze,” George said. “A huge swath of Pennsylvania will see sharply higher electric bills in about nine months while FirstEnergy/Penelec customers face 50 percent increases come Jan. 1, 2011.”

George said the Keystone HELP Energy Efficiency Loan and Rebate Program enables Pennsylvania homeowners to improve the energy efficiency with special financing and rebates for high- efficiency heating, air conditioning, insulation, windows, doors, geothermal and whole-house improvements.

Applications and information are available at www.keystonehelp.com, or by calling 1-888 232-3477 toll free.

The application deadline is June 30. A household may receive only one Keystone HELP loan or one Keystone HELP rebate each fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

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