The protection that keeps utilities from disconnecting customers in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) ends on Friday.
Numbers from the Iowa Utilities Board show around 31,049 customers who are signed up for LIHEAP had past-due utility bills in February.
IUB spokesman, Don Tormey, says some of those customers went into the winter season behind on bills from the summer. “The Utilities Board always encourages those customers to work closely with their utility company, or possibly their community action agency to arrange payment agreements with their utility or to continue to apply for energy assistance payments through April 30th,” Tormey says.
The IUB numbers show around 212,000 customers who were not in the LIHEAP program who were behind on their utility bills at the end of February. Tormey says it’s important for customers to communicate with utility companies any time they get behind on bills.
“Utilities want to work with customers. It costs money to go out there and disconnect… to post the property to give proper notice to the customer prior to any disconnection — they are required to do that,” Tormey says. “So, it takes time and effort and money to do that, they want to keep those customers.”
If you have talked with your utility company and can’t work something out, Tormey says the IUB can help. “Customers can always call the Iowa Utilities Board customer service staff, and we will assist them with issues that are not resolved directly with their utility,” according to Tormey. He says you can call toll free 1-877-565-4450.
He says you can also find out more on their website. “There is information posted on the home page Iowa Utilities Board website at iub.iowa.gov. And we also have a LIHEAP informational page, and there is link to that in our website as well,” Tormey says. “But we encourage customers who still think they can apply for energy assistance to do so through their local community action agency through April 30th of this year. ”
IUB information shows customers owe more than 39 million dollars from overdue utility bills, and that includes about nine million from customers in the energy assistance program. The overall number of past-due accounts was down about four percent this year compared to February of 2015. The amount owed is down about four million dollars compared to last year.