There are steps to take to prevent a home's utilities from being shut off. Low income or struggling customers can get help from a number of different sources to either delay, or prevent, electric, heat, or lights from being disconnected. Some of the primary programs that can stop utilities from being shut off are below.
Not all of the assistance programs involve financial aid. Some of the solutions to keeping power on include free legal counseling, payment or protection plans, or negotiated discounts. Also note it is never easy to prevent a shut off from occurring, so most customers will often need to use a combination of approaches in order to keep their power on.
In addition it is critical to start this process early, as a utility company is more likely to stop the service from being shut off if the customer both communicates as well as makes a serious effort to get assistance. If the individual were to wait to ask for help until just right before their electric or other utility service is disconnected their chances for getting assistance will be much reduced. Ideally ask for help before a shut-off notice has been received.
Vulnerable households, which can include homes with senior citizens, children, or someone that is sick or disabled often have more options to prevent a shut off. For example, it may lead to death if an elderly person has their heating service shut off during a cold winter spell, or some thing with losing air conditioning during the summer. There may be additional payment plans offered by energy suppliers, state laws to protect the customer, and even priority when it comes to applying for financial aid including government grants.
Most states offer various rules and regulations to protect customers, with a focus on those vulnerable ones identified above. There is often a government agency set up to ensure that all utility companies follow the law. The goal is to ensure that when someone is sick or maybe needs their electricity to power medical equipment (such as a CPAP machine or AC unit) that their power is not shut off. As those individuals rely on it. Find utility disconnection laws by state.
Many utility companies, whether they offer natural gas, electricity, or even water have some form of plans to offer their customers to prevent a shut off. These will come with a number of terms and conditions in place. Some states require these consumer protection plans to be made available. The assistance ranges from abatement to payment plans, negotiated discounts, and fee waivers among others. Some are also focused on the elderly that live on a limited income or the disabled.
As noted, call the utility company as early as possible. Any postponement will reduce the chances of getting help to stop the shut off of the account. In addition, any energy company will almost always want to see proof. So they will need details on income, identification, details on all household members including children, etc. More on energy bill assistance.
When all else has failed, there is government aid from the LIHEAP crisis program run by the government. This will provide direct financial assistance to prevent the disconnection. It is generally for very low income families and/or those living in poverty, with a focus on senior citizens. Generally the emergency assistance can be issued in as little as 48 to 72 hours, but funding is always limited.
Many charities and non-profits can either offer financial aid or counseling. This can also be effective in stopping a shut off of any type of utility account. Note the funding will almost always be very limited as demand is high and resources are sparse.
The options are extensive. They include national groups like the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities as well as Society of Saint Vincent. Some are affiliated with church groups and other faith based agencies, but most help anyone in need. Provided they qualify. But there may be some emergency assistance to help keep lights or electric from being shut off. Find a list of charities that assist with bills.
There are also more localized resources. Maybe they may one that is involved in providing support will be assistance from community action agencies. These anti-poverty fighting organizations not only work to prevent a shut off of utilities, but they are involved in employment goals, LIHAEP applications, credit counseling, and much more. There are hundreds of these non-profits in most parts of the country. Another option is a faith based group, which may also offer cash grants to stop a disconnection. Find churches that help pay bills.
Pro-bono legal firms can also advise lower income families when it comes to fighting the disconnection of electric or utility service. They can review any notices from the power company, ensure all the rules and regulations are followed, and try to mediate a solution between the customer and their energy provider. The legal aid is usually available at no cost in all cases, and find how to get free lawyer consultations for utilities or any other civil matter.