Many Ohio residents saw a significant increase in their utility bills this winter, with energy costs estimated to have increased by 30% nationally from the previous year. This spike in energy costs has left many unable to pay their utility bills.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), more commonly referred to as HEAP in Ohio, provides assistance to people with low, moderate and fixed incomes to pay their utility bills. The program has seen its funding doubled by Congress, but many eligible customers are not aware of this assistance option.
Ohioans were protected against having their utilities shut off during the pandemic and over the winter, but this protection is coming to an end. Many residents are now facing the prospect of having their utilities shut off or having to choose between heating/cooling their home and purchasing necessities such as food and medicine.
“For many low-and fixed-income Ohioans heating/cooling a home can be a significant strain on their monthly budget, but the high cost of energy made it even worse this season,” said Holly Holtzen, state director of AARP Ohio. “Now is the time to make sure individuals and families who need this assistance can get it. We encourage all eligible residents to apply for HEAP as soon as possible.”
Ohio has ample HEAP funding available for eligible residents, and for one year only, funds can be used to pay off past due utility debt. With so many people having accumulated debt over the pandemic just to make ends meet, this program could be a lifeline for those with utility bills that they cannot afford to pay.
Also, check with your local utility about special discount rates for income qualified customers, setting up a payment plan, and enrollment in energy efficiency and weatherization audit programs to help you save money by reducing your energy usage. For more information, visit the Ohio Public Utilities Commission website.