When you open your mailbox to find a termination notice from one of your utilities, the stress begins. If you are behind on paying your bills the news is probably not a surprise, but bad news is bad news whether you expect it or not. So, what should you do?
The first thing a customer needs to do when they receive a termination notice from their utility company is to contact WV211 to see what financial assistance may be available. Just dial 211 on your phone and you will automatically be connected with someone who has knowledge of assistance in your area and can connect you with any available resources.
You should also contact your local West Virginia DHHR office to apply for assistance through LIHEAP, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP is a federally funded program that is administered locally that helps low-income citizens pay for home heating and cooling, weatherizing your home and minor energy-related home repairs.
The West Virginia Housing Development Fund administers assistance programs for renters and homeowners who are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program and the West Virginia Homeowner Rescue Program can help with utility bill payments, rent and mortgage assistance. Detailed information, including eligibility requirements, are on the West Virginia Housing Development Fund website at www.wvhdf.com.
After seeking assistance, you should contact your utility company. Let them know that you are looking for assistance and attempting to pay your bill. Ask about setting up a deferred payment plan to spread your past due amount across several months’ bills so you can get caught up.
If, after speaking with the utility, you are still in danger of termination, it’s time to call the Public Service Commission at 1 (800) 642-8544. We have a team of specially trained Consumer Affairs Technicians who can act as a liaison between the customer and the utility company to try to work out a solution to avoid termination of service.
We are in difficult times right now. Prices are rising across the board and money is tight. If you receive that dreaded termination letter from your utility company, don’t panic. Remember that help is available and now you know where to start looking for assistance.