Maine Public Service assistance programs.

Several payment plans and energy assistance programs are available for families who receive their energy from Maine Public Service, Emera, and Bangor Hydro. Most of the aid is focused on those people facing a short term financial hardship or crisis. Customers that need longer term assistance may want to explore low income energy assistance programs from the federal government or state of Maine, such as LIHEAP.

Payment assistance programs are available to help customers deal with increasing costs of electric bills. Various billing and payment arrangements can help qualified residents reduce the impact of these higher electricity prices. When a customer is faced with a financial hardship that is making it difficult for them to pay their bills, the company will try to work with you to create some form of assistance program. The most common option may be a deferred payment agreement, which means the the household will be billed an amount based on your income and ability to pay.

This plan will allow Maine Public Service to continue to bill you on a monthly basis, even if you can't pay your current account in full every month. Customers will still need to commit to paying a reasonable portion of their total costs. Any balance on their account will still need to be paid in the future in affordable monthly or weekly payments. So the balance you owe is still due to MPS and is not waived.

In order to enroll, several conditions will need to be met. The company will review your ability to pay your bill, analyze previous payment history, need proof of income, and also consider the size of the overdue amount on your account. Maine Public will need to be told the reason the bill cannot be paid and factor in the length of time the bill has remained unpaid. Emera doesn't want to disconnect people at risk, so they will also consider whether disconnection poses a danger or medical risk to your household. All of this will need to be proven to the company when you apply.

The payment arrangements will be tailored to meet the particular situations and needs of customers. This provides Maine Public Services flexibility when trying to find a solution. Eligible customers receive a written copy of the different options and also their specific arrangement.

For example, low income customers unable to pay their utility bill during the cold Maine winter months without creating some other type of hardship for their family are eligible for a Special Payment Arrangement that is offered during the winter. This particular arrangement allows customers to pay less than the actual amount during the winter months. Then any underpayment is made up in the summer and customers need to pay what is due. Note if a customer fails to make payments on their account according to the written payment plan, your service can be disconnected.




Other non-profit or government assistance programs are also available in Maine. Very low income, seniors, or working poor families may be entitled to financial assistance or grants from the State, federal or local government agencies. Or Emera may provide customers with information on additional private funding sources, such as referrals to community action agencies. These non-profits may have funds to help pay your electricity or heating bill.

Maine Public Service Company PowerPACT Program is an incentive program for some customers. Income qualified customers on a ventilator or an Oxygen Pump for a minimum of eight hours per day may qualify for help. They will generally be given some type of monthly credit to reimburse them for the cost of using that medical equipment.

Government programs include General Assistance as well as the Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP). Emergency Assistance, or Family Crisis, is another option. More information is below.

The state of Maine requires that every town and city provide General Assistance. This may be an option for paying your current electric and heating bill. You need to contact your city, county or town office to make an appointment, and any aid is offered at most once per month.

Bangor Hydro customers as well as those from MPS may receive help from the Energy Crisis Intervention Program, which is a component of LIHEAP. This program helps people who are in an emergency situation, such as out of heating oil or fuel. Or maybe their power is about to be disconnected. Call a community action agency near you to apply.

If someone does qualify for financial aid from one of the government programs above, then they may also be placed onto the waiting list for weatherization. This is for customers of Emera as well as Maine Public Service, and it will help households save money on their heating bills. Free updates can be made to their home, such as extra insulation or maybe even a more efficient furnace.




Last, but not least, Family Crisis is offered to families with children under the age of 18. This can even assist customers who may not be receiving cash assistance from TANF but would be eligible for TANF if they applied. One of the main components of the utility assistance program is to assist families in paying their past due energy-related costs. This is only an option if it will prevent a shut off of their Maine Public Service account.

For more information, call Maine Public Service at 877-655-4448.


By Jon McNamara

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