Columbus, Ohio – For the 27th consecutive year, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today ordered Ohio electric and natural gas utilities to reconnect or maintain service for customers who have been disconnected or are facing disconnection. Last winter heating season, more than 431,000 Ohio utility customers utilized the PUCO’s winter reconnect program. “This winter, many Ohioans will find themselves in need of help to keep their homes warm,” PUCO Chairman Todd A. Snitchler stated. “The PUCO’s winter reconnect program has a proven record of providing struggling families with an opportunity to have their heating service reconnected or maintained during tough times.”
Under the program customers who are dealing with disconnection can have their service restored or maintained if they pay the amount owed or $175, whichever is less, plus a service reconnection fee of no more than $36. Customers may use the program once during the upcoming winter heating season between Oct. 17, 2011 and April 13, 2012.
There is no income eligibility requirement, but the plan requires customers to sign up for a payment plan to pay any remaining past-due balance on their utility bill. Eligible customers may apply payments from the Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program toward the $175 amount. If a utility’s reconnection fee is greater than $36, the utility may bill the balance of the reconnection charge to the customer the following month.
Income-eligible customers who are interested in re-enrolling or maintaining participation in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP Plus) program must make an additional payment of no more than $50 per utility if they owe more than $175 in PIPP Plus default. Any remaining balance will be added to the customer’s arrearage.
The winter reconnect program also applies to customers seeking to establish new service. Customers requesting new natural gas or electric service who have no outstanding balance with the utility may establish new service by paying $175, rather than paying the required security deposit. Customers who use the winter reconnect program to establish new service may have the remaining balance of the required security deposit added to their next month’s bill.
The winter reconnect program is only available to customers of the PUCO-regulated electric and natural gas utilities that serve approximately six million residential customers across Ohio. The Commission urges rural electric cooperatives and municipally owned utilities that are not regulated by the PUCO to adopt similar programs.
There are several other state and federal programs available to assist those who qualify. The PUCO suggests that customers explore all options including PIPP Plus, the Home Energy Assistance Program and the Home Weatherization Assistance Program. More information about these programs and additional ways to save on home heating bills this winter is available at Ohio’s Winter Heating Resource website www.winterheat.ohio.gov. Visitors to this site will also find information about budget billing, energy choice and energy conservation.