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If you’re struggling to pay your energy bill, there are various programs that can help. The federal government, states and even utility providers offer assistance to help you pay your electric, gas or propane bills. Although the specific requirements for each program differ, you’ll generally need to demonstrate financial need and provide a copy of an overdue utility bill.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is implemented by the government. Funding is provided to every state to administer the program at a local level. States set the eligibility guidelines and the type of assistance awarded. Generally, the assistance is awarded in the form of a one-time grant to help bring a past-due bill current. For example, in Florida, the LIHEAP provides a credit of up to $300 per year for households. In New Jersey, the maximum credit is $200. Some states also offer weatherization help to make homes more energy-efficient, or crisis assistance to help with emergency repairs and to restore utilities that are currently disconnected. Contact your county’s LIHEAP office to apply. You can go to the U.S. Office of Community Services to find your local LIHEAP office.
States also run programs to help residents in need. The assistance is often available once you’ve exhausted LIHEAP assistance. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs offers the Universal Service Fund, which helps lower monthly bills on the recurring basis for residents. Minnesota Energy Resources provides weatherization services, including extra insulation, caulking, weather stripping and servicing heating or cooling units. You can check with your state’s department of Social Services or local community action agency for information about programs your state offers.
Utility providers across the country collaborate with nonprofit organizations to provide help to people in need. Operation Round Up allows customers to round their utility bill up to the nearest dollar. The contributions are matched by the utility providers and set aside to help households facing a financial hardship or crisis. HeatShare is a program administered by the Salvation Army and utility providers. The program has a similar concept and also relies on customer contributions for funding. The funds collected are sent to the Salvation Army and disbursed to families based on need. You can either contact your utility provider directly to inquire about available programs, or your local Salvation Army or United Way. The United Way’s 2-1-1 Information and Referral Line can help you find programs available in your specific location. Dial 2-1-1 or visit 211.org to begin your search.