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Help turning on utility service with no money.

Emergency assistance is provided to low income families so they can get their utility service turned back on when they have no money. Resources may even assist applicants with no savings to their name or income coming in the door. All types of utilities can be covered, including funds to pay deposits to turn on heat, lights in the home, or electricity on the same day.

There are a few different government programs which may help pay a deposit or connection fee and some charities may also help turn on a families heat or electric service. Generally the customer will need to have a source of income, but even if the family has no money available to them it may still be possible to turn on the electric service in their home or apartment.

The process of how to turn the electric on, whether the same or next day, varies by state and even utility company. Many companies will often require the applicant to be caught up with their bills at a previous address, but there can be exceptions made for families impacted by a shut off. Some energy companies will also have separate rules and regulations that they follow for customers that need their electricity or heat due to medical reasons. More information on these options are listed below.

Government programs for turning electric on

There are a few resources available, including LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing, TANF welfare, as well as legal aid among others. The exact terms and conditions vary based on state. Some will assist households with no money to their name, others will pay for deposits, and some programs may only issue a loan.

LIHEAP is the primary government program for families in poverty and the working poor. In some states it will pay for application fees, utility deposits, and there may be money to fix a meter. Any type of grant from this government program generally focuses on helping connect heating or gas service during the fall or winter, but in some parts of the country it operates year round. Find more details on LIHEAP grants.

Since a landlord may consider a home or apartment to be uninhabitable if it does not have electricity to it, homeless prevention/rehousing programs may help pay to turn on the utilities. The federal government tends to pay for this, but funds are disbursed locally to the charities such as the Salvation Army or United Way. Other non-profits may also have grants from rehousing, and they can often help pay for connection fees so a person can get their electric turned on.




Rehousing can even help the formerly homeless, who often have no cash to turn on their lights or power. Of course in these cases it will generally be required that the person or family that was homeless now has some form of stability in their life, such as a job or maybe they went through a transitional housing program. Many local HPRP homeless prevention and rehousing programs also address the need for electric service for those without cash to pay for this expense.

Public assistance, mostly from TANF type programs, can also help people with no or limited funds to turn on their electric service. These resources are usually run by a social service department. The cash aid is used for households impacted by a shut off of their lights, heat, and more. The reason that government money may be used for paying utility deposits is that it is a form of homeless prevention, and government agencies can justify this as being pro-active. Learn how to apply for cash assistance programs.

Another common challenge is individuals that have an arreage on their utilities from a previous address. Some companies may refuse to turn on electricity or heat at the new home unless the balance on their account is paid in full. When this occurs, there are still options available.

  • A payment plan can be used so that the old bill can be paid off over time. This is especially effective for people with no money, as they can use their future income to cover this cost.
  • If two or more electric bill were paid at the prior address, many states will require heat and/or lights to be turned on at the new home while the old balance is being paid.
  • Pre-paid accounts may be used to set up new service, as long as at least a few dollars are deposited into it.

Help from charities and non-profits for people with no money

When their has been an illegal shut off of utilities, then charitable legal aid may be available. This form of assistance may even help households that are struggling to get their electric turned back on the same day. There are also free legal services that will assist families impacted by a medical or health care issues. Examples may be for kids with asthma, people with a nebulizer, or other medical equipment. States often have rules and regulations that utility companies need to follow for both delaying a shut off and helping people, including those with no money, turn their electric service back on. Read more on free legal services.

While much more limited, some churches and local charities may offer money to help turn on electric service. However, generally these groups (such as the Salvation Army) would rather take a more pro-active approach to prevent the shut off, but when someone has no lights and needs help to pay a deposit for their utilities, this may be an option. Find a listing of local charities for paying bills.







It may be worth exploring sources of emergency cash in order to get the electric, heat, or light utilities turned back on. The options range from charities to quick sources of extra income, technology for extra money, and more. All of these can be sources of funds for turning utilities back on. Read more on how to get emergency cash.

Any financial help from a charity is generally in the form of a loan. As this will encourage an applicant that currently has no money to get a job and stabilize their situation. So when contacting a group such as a church that is part of Saint Vincent de Paul or the Salvation Army, be prepared to agree to terms and conditions they may have. Even when that is done, most only have limited resources so it can be challenging to try them to get utilities turned back on.

By Jon McNamara

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