Need Help Paying for Utilities?

Posted on 12/20/2013 by | AARP Kansas | Comments

Winter Thermometer

Afraid of not being able to pay your utility bills this winter?  With cold weather upon us and the rising costs of energy, that’s a valid fear.

That’s why the Kansas Cold Weather Rule was developed in 1983.  Under the Cold Weather Rule, the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), which regulates utility companies in Kansas, requires utility companies to offer special payment plans from November 1 through March 31. 

The purpose of the rule is to ensure that homes have electricity, gas and water service during the coldest months of the year.

The Cold Weather Rule requires a utility to send written notice to customers 10 days before disconnection, plus attempt a phone call or personal contact the day before.  The utility company also must tell customers about agencies that have funds to help pay utility bills.

A utility cannot disconnect you when the temperature is forecasted to drop below 35 degrees or be in the mid to low 30’s over the next 24 hours, except in certain circumstances. To prevent disconnection when it is 35 degrees or above, or to be reconnected regardless of temperature, you must make pay arrangements with your utility.

A utility may start the final notification and disconnection process if there is a 48 hour forecast of temperatures above 35 degrees.

If you know you won’t be able to pay your entire monthly bill contact the utility company.  If your bill is past due, you can agree to pay 1/12 of the overdue amount of your bill, plus 1/12 of your current bill, all disconnection and connection fees, and agree to pay the remainder in equal payments over the next 11 months; or negotiate a payment plan to pay the overdue amount off quicker than 12 months. But, know that you must also pay your full bills for new service you use while paying off the overdue amount.

To find out more about the Cold Weather Rule, visit http://coldweatherrule.com/states/kansas

If you need help paying your utility bills, assistance is available through the Kansas Low Income Home Energy Bill Assistance Program, or LIEHEAP, which is a federally funded government program to provide assistance for paying utility and heating bills.  The money can help households pay a portion of their home energy bills by providing qualified applicants a one-time per year benefit. Or funds can be used to pay for emergency repairs to heating equipment.  To apply for LIEHEAP visit www.benefitsapplication.com. 

Utility companies may also provide utility payment assistance as well as local social service agencies.