Ohio COVID19 bill payment assistance and electricity disconnection

Ohio COVID-19 Electricity Bill Payment Assistance

  • Written By: Rebecca Bridges
  • Electricity bill payment assistance is a hot topic due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and business shut-down. Many consumers and small business owners in Ohio are concerned about paying their basic bills.

    This list of FAQs covers some of the basics on Ohio electricity disconnection, payment plans and bill payment assistance.

    Has Ohio required electric utilities to stop disconnections?

    Unlike some other states, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has not mandated that utilities cease disconnections. On March 13, 2020 PUCO issued a press release that said:

    1. The Winter Reconnection program is extended through May 1 (from its usual end date of April 14).
    2. PUCO requests that the utility companies “review their policies and identify where it may be prudent to suspend, for the duration of the emergency, any policies that would impose a service restoration hardship or create an unnecessary risk of human contact.”
    3. PUCO directs all utilities to coordinate with local community action agencies to ensure that utility service to customers is maintained during the state of emergency.

    So what’s that mean? The first item is easy. But here’s what item #2 and #3 mean:

    The PUCO would like utilities to suspend disconnections, which would be hard to manage without the risk of face to face human contact during social distancing. Additionally, they want the utility companies to work with charitable organizations to provide bill payment assistance.

    The utility companies have jumped on this in a big way, announcing new programs. Keep reading!

    What Ohio electric utilities have suspended disconnection for non-payment due to COVID-19?

    Here are all the deregulated Ohio electric utility companies that have suspended disconnection for non-payment due to COVID-19:

    • American Electric Power
    • Dayton Power and Light
    • Duke Energy
    • Ohio Edison
    • The Illuminating Company
    • Toledo Edison 

    From this list, you can see that every electric utility in the deregulated areas of Ohio has suspended disconnections.

    Many utility companies are also temporarily suspending late payments, waiving fees to pay by credit card and waiving deposits to start new service.

    If you can make a payment, continue to do so. Otherwise you’ll build up a large unpaid past due balance.

    Bookmark this page and check back to find out when disconnections for non-payment are back in effect.

    What electricity bill payment assistance is available in Ohio?

    Each of the deregulated electricity utilities in Ohio offers an electricity bill payment assistance program. Many of these are focused on consumers that earn at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.

    A lot of people are hurting financially due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your utility to ask for help finding assistance.

    These are just some of the Ohio electricity bill payment assistance programs that may be available to you.

    • Project Reach/Salvation Army: First Energy Corp (Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison) provides community support through the Salvation Army.
    • Ohio Neighbor to Neighbor Program: AEP Ohio provides community support to low income customers through this customer-funded program.
    • 211 Helpline: Call 211 or text your zip code to 211 to get a list of agencies in your area.
    • Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP): If a recent layoff has changed your financial status, you may be eligible for PIPP. Eligible customers are those at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. Note that if you are on the PIPP program, you will not be able to select a Certified Retail Electricity Supplier, and must pay the utility’s standard service offer rate.
    • Home Energy Assistance Program: The Home Energy Assistance program provides financial assistance to low to moderate income customers through OPAE Fuel Fund. Recipients must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. The funds are administered by different resources in each county. Check this list to find the community resources nearest your home.

    How do I set up a payment plan for my OH electricity bill?

    Once the moratorium on disconnections is lifted, you may receive a disconnection notice if you haven’t been able to keep your bill current.

    Your utility company must give you 14 days notice prior to disconnection. Disconnection notices are always sent by U.S. Mail.

    Times are stressful enough without worrying whether your lights will get shut off down the road. That’s why we suggest that you take action now, rather than waiting to get a disconnection notice.

    To set up a payment plan for your Ohio electricity bill, call your utility at the number listed below. They can review your options.

    Can I switch electricity suppliers while under a payment arrangement?

    Yes, you can certainly exercise your right to choose your OH electricity supplier while you are under a payment arrangement.

    However, know the impact that can have on your payment arrangement.

    Your payment arrangement with the utility includes a payment arrangement with your supplier. Once you switch away from your old supplier to a new supplier, your payment arrangement with the old supplier is cancelled. The total past due amount that you owe the old supplier would come due immediately. And you would see that on your bill from the utility.

    If you are not able to pay that immediate due balance, the utility company will write-off that debt within 35 days after the bill is issued. The problem goes away. Or does it?

    But just because the utility writes off the debt doesn’t mean you don’t still owe it. If it’s written off, you’ll see an item on a subsequent bill, saying, “Transfer to Previous Provider to Collect.”

    That means the supplier is going to be in touch with you to collect the debt. And if it goes unpaid, it could be reported to a credit bureau.

    So here are our recommendations on shopping for an Ohio electricity supplier if you are in a utility payment arrangement:

    If you are with a supplier now: Review your current supplier rate and contract expiration date (you’ll find this on your utility bill). If you are on a rate that’s higher than the current price to compare, you should contact your supplier and ask for a lower price. If they refuse, shop for a new Ohio electricity supplier.

    If you are not with a supplier now: Shop your electricity supply to see if you can lock in a rate below the price to compare. Direct Energy Live Brighter plan offers a great savings opportunity right now. By locking in a low rate, your overall bill will go down.

    Shop for Best Ohio Fixed Rate Electricity Plan Near You

    What is the Winter Reconnection and what does it have to do with COVID19

    The Ohio Winter Reconnection program normally runs from October 17 to April 14.

    The PUCO has extended the Winter Reconnection program date through May 1.

    The Winter Reconnect order allows residential customers who are being disconnected or threatened with disconnection the opportunity to pay no more than $175 to maintain their utility service. Those who have already experienced a disconnection may pay no more than $36 to have their utilities reconnected.

    This is some added protection for consumers. However, like we said above, all major electricity utilities in Ohio have already said that they will not be disconnecting customers for non-payment. So for now, your lights will stay on, even if you are unable to make a payment.

    Electricity Payment Scams and COVID-19: Beware!

    Scammers and fraudsters don’t take a break during times of crisis. In fact, payment scams are on the rise with COVID-19. Here are some of the common scams and how to protect yourself.

    • None of the major Ohio electricity utility companies are currently disconnecting for non-payment.
    • Disconnection notices will always come to you via U.S. Mail, with specific information on how to make payment arrangements.
    • Your utility company will never call and require you to make an immediate payment with a a pre-pay card, such as a Green Dot MoneyPak, Vanilla or Reloadit.
    • Your utility will never call you and demand immediate payment to avoid shutoff, without prior notification.
    • Your Ohio utility company won’t come to your house to demand immediate payment.
    • Your Ohio electric utility will never require you to go to a specific payment center, such as a grocery store, to make payment in person.

    If something seems suspicious, it probably is. Trust your hunch, and call the phone number listed on your bill if you have questions.

    For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19 and the pandemic, visit www.coronavirus.ohio.gov

    About Rebecca Bridges

    Rebecca Bridges has worked in deregulated energy markets since 2001. As chief marketing officer for ElectricityPlans, she focuses on helping consumers save on their electricity bills and find the best electricity plans. Outside of work, Rebecca uses her marketing experience to support dog rescue and can often be found hiking or biking local trails.

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