Chesterton Tribune

Gas shut off moratorium ends today; help available for folks who owe on bills

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With the state’s winter moratorium ending today, the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) is reminding customers with outstanding balances enrolled in the state’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that a number of assistance programs, payment arrangements, and energy efficiency programs are available to help customers with their utility bills.

Between Dec. 1 and March 15, natural gas utilities in Indiana do not disconnect service to LIHEAP customers who are delinquent on their home heating bills.

“This winter, mild temperatures in combination with low natural gas prices have helped keep bills lower than past years,” said Cindy Jackson, manager of energy efficiency and energy assistance programs for NIPSCO. “Despite these favorable conditions, there are still people struggling with their bills, so these programs are very important to our communities.”

There are several options available to offer utility bill assistance for households that are experiencing financial challenges, including:

•Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Program: LIHEAP support is available to households falling within 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines, and is fully funded by a federal block grant offered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

•NIPSCO Customer Assistance for Residential Energy (CARE) Discount Program: In addition to the assistance available through LIHEAP, the NIPSCO CARE Discount Program is designed to provide further bill reductions to LIHEAP-eligible customers. Once enrolled in LIHEAP, customers are automatically enrolled in the program, and reductions range from 11 to 26 percent, depending on the same criteria used by the state in determining the level of assistance.

•NIPSCO Hardship Program: For customers just outside the federal poverty guidelines for LIHEAP, the NIPSCO Hardship Program offers up to $200 in gas bill assistance to households between 151-200 percent of the federal poverty level. Hardship funds are available through many of the same local Community Action Agencies where LIHEAP funds are distributed.

•Gift of Warmth Program: Funded by churches, individuals and other human service-focused organizations and matched dollar-for-dollar by NIPSCO, Gift of Warmth offers assistance towards one bill each heating season.

•Township Trustees: A limited amount of energy assistance funds are available through local Township Trustee offices. Last year, approximately $1.2 million was distributed to help nearly 7,000 customers. NIPSCO customers are encouraged to contact their local Township Trustee to see what help is available.

•Payment Arrangements: A NIPSCO credit agreement allows you to make an initial payment within four days of the agreement, then spread the remaining unpaid balance over three months, plus current bills as they are due.

 

 

Posted 3/15/2012