Some Iowa utility customers are still paying off winter heat bills from two years ago, when prices spiked to record levels. For those having trouble going into this winter heating system, an official with the state’s low-income heating assistance program says it maybe time for a call to the power company. Jerry McKim in the state’s bureau of energy assistance explains utilities in the state are required to set up a payment program for customers having trouble with bills. There’s no real definition of “reasonable” though the law says the power company has to take into account the household’s ability to pay, and sets out a process that includes a payment period that’s at least twelve months. McKim says often, that power company will make twelve months the maximum time to pay off a delinquent bill, which can be tough for a low-income family to manage. McKim says he often talks with ratepayers facing disconnection who clearly agreed to a payment plan they couldn’t manage. He says there’s an appeal of last resort,the utility board itself.The utility board’s customer-service office acts as an advocate for customers and might intervene on their behalf. McKim says the number for the state utility board’s customer-service department is 877-565-4450.
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