A report from Iowa’s largest utility companies shows thousands of households are behind on paying their power bills. A federal program provides protection from having the power shut off between November 1st and March 31st — so the deadline is Sunday. Jerry McKim, director of Iowa’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, says he’s concerned about those who are not part of the program.
“People do get shut off in the winter, the numbers drop way off, but starting April 1st, it comes on with a vengeance,” McKimm says. “Just to give you an idea, in February, there were 1,254 involuntary disconnections reported by the state’s regulated utilities.”
McKim says fewer people applied for assistance this year, so there are funds available in LIHEAP for those who qualify. Because the moratorium expires Sunday, it may not prevent disconnection, but the money can be applied to past due bills while a payment plan is negotiated.
McKimm says it’s a myth that power won’t be disconnected in the winter and if that happens, residents are allowed to negotiate a reasonable payment plan. “This doesn’t matter whether you’re low-income or not, any residential customer has this protection,” he says.
“If you haven’t had a payment agreement that you’ve broken in the last 12 months, the utility shall, not might, shall offer you a minimum of 12 months to pay off the past due balance, and that’s a minimum not a maximum 12 months.” McKim says a report from utility companies statewide shows nearly 234,000 households have delinquent accounts.
Although the companies are required to work with customers, he says it’s up to the individuals to ask for help.