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Heating bill help available for some Pennsylvania gas customers

Stephen Huba
| Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, 2:09 p.m.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is reminding its 426,000 customers that help is available for those who have trouble paying their heating bills during the winter months.

Columbia offers payment options to customers with limited or low income, customers who are facing special circumstances or those who need to re-establish their gas service.

“The first step we ask every customer to take is to contact your utility company at the first sign you may have trouble paying your bill. The sooner we hear about an issue or problem, the sooner we can explore assistance options,” said Deb Davis, Columbia manager of universal services.

The greatest opportunity for customers to reduce their monthly bill is through weatherization and energy efficiency solutions, the company said.

Programs available to Columbia customers include:

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Columbia serves as a link to federal energy assistance funds which provide help with residential heating costs. The funds, available until April 6, 2018, are distributed as energy grants. These energy grants do not have to be repaid by the customer. Guidelines change with each new heating season and are based on household size and income level. Customers are encouraged to apply before funds run out. For more information or to apply for LIHEAP, call the LIHEAP Hotline at 1-800-272-2714.

Customer Assistance Program

Columbia's Customer Assistance Program offers affordable payment plans and arrearage forgiveness, for customers with low incomes and long-term bill payment difficulties. Columbia's CAP features reduced monthly payments for current bills for income-eligible customers, as well as debt forgiveness for prior balances. For more information or to apply for CAP, call Columbia at 1-800-537-7431.

Customer Assistance, Referral & Evaluation Services

Columbia's CARES program helps customers who have a true inability to pay their utility bills and are facing additional challenges. CARES representatives provide referrals to agencies that may be able to assist the customer as well as provide information on fuel assistance programs. For more information on CARES, call Columbia at 1-800-537-7431.

Dollar Energy Fund

The Dollar Energy Fund is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides assistance to people who are on low or fixed incomes. The fund receives donations from utility customers that are matched by the utilities. For more information or to apply for the Dollar Energy Fund, call Columbia at 1-800-537-7431.

WarmWise: Low Income Usage Reduction Program

Columbia's Low Income Usage Reduction Program, or LIURP, provides income-eligible customers with a no-charge home weatherization assistance to help reduce annual heating costs. LIURP identifies improved home weatherization opportunities in the home and then installs the most cost effective measures to reduce consumption. A clean and tune-up of existing heating equipment is also included with this program. For more information, call Columbia at 1-800-537-7431.

WarmWise: Audits & Rebates

Audits & Rebates is a free program available to qualifying Columbia customers. Audits & Rebates offers a free, comprehensive, in-home energy audit identifying and recommending energy saving improvements throughout the home. Customers also can choose to take advantage of rebates for energy-saving improvements. To get started and schedule a free home energy audit, call Columbia at 1-866-956-0308.

CRISIS Emergency Energy Assistance

A component of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), CRISIS Emergency Energy Assistance provides funds for customers in emergency situations and in danger of losing their heat. Emergency situations include being without heat, imminent utility service termination and the need for repair of broken heating equipment or leaking lines. For more information on CRISIS funds, call Columbia at 1-800-272-2714.

Security Deposit Assistance Fund

Security Deposit Assistance Fund (S-DAF) is a grant program that will help to pay a security deposit when establishing service with Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania. Customers do not have to pay back the grant. Grants may be awarded one time within a 12-month period and are subject to income eligibility requirements. For assistance in paying the security deposit, call Advantage Credit Counseling Services at 1-866-224-0064 to see if you qualify and learn more about the S-DAF program.

Budget Payment Plan

Available to all customers, the Budget Payment Plan allows customers to spread annual gas costs evenly across the year instead of paying account balances each month, helping to eliminate high winter bills. The budget year begins in May, but customers can enroll any time during the year. For more information on Budget Payment Plans or to apply, call Columbia at 1-888-460-4332.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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