How can I get assistance with my gas, electric, water, or telephone service?

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Numerous programs help make utilities such as electricity, gas, water and telephone more affordable for consumers. Listed below are several such programs along with information about who is eligible and how to apply.

Gas and Electric Service

In the summer, if you are 60 or more years old, you may qualify to receive $250 for an air conditioner and/ or utility assistance. Adults under 60 may qualify if you received a disconnection notice and you have a documented medical condition.

In the winter, emergency assistance is also available when households are threatened with disconnection or have less than a 10-day supply of bulk fuel in their tank.

The regular Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) for low-income consumers and the Percent of Income Payment Plan Plus provide year-round financial assistance to qualifying consumers. You may qualify for a one-time payment toward your gas bill and a payment plan based on your income on both your gas and electric bills. If you are already enrolled in PIPP and HEAP, you must continue to make monthly payments in order to remain eligible again next year.

For more information or to apply, contact the agency in the county where you live:

  • Ashtabula County – Ashtabula County Community Action Agency, Inc (440.997.5957), www.accaa.org
  • Cuyahoga County – Cleveland Housing Network (216.518.4014, or for seniors over 60 or anyone physically disabled call 216.774.2351 to schedule an in-home appointment), http://www.chnnet. com/electric-gas-bulk-fuel-water-assistance.aspx; Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland (216.696.9077), www.ceogc.org.
  • Geauga County – Geauga Community Action, Inc. (440.285.9141)
  • Lake County – Lifeline For Empowerment and Development of Consumers (440.354.2148), www.lclifeline.org
  • Lorain County – Lorain County Community Action Agency, Inc. (440.245.2009)

Water Service

Customers of the Cleveland Water Department may be eligible for the Water Affordability Program, which provides a 40% discount to qualifying households. You must be the homeowner, live in the home, and meet income guidelines to qualify. You can call Cleveland Housing Network at 216-774-2386 to apply or download an application at: http://www.chnnet.com/electric-gas-bulk-fuel-water-assistance.aspx

Water Department customers who are 65 years or older, or who are totally and permanently disabled, may qualify for the Homestead Program. Call the Cleveland Water Department Customer Service Department at 216-664- 3130 to apply or download the application at http://www.clevelandwater.com/Resident/discountprograms.aspx.

Telephone Service

Residents of Ohio who have income at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines or who participate in programs such as Medicaid, public housing, HEAP, free school lunch, food stamps, SSI, or Ohio Works First, may qualify for discounted landline and cell phone service.

The Lifeline Ohio program offered to AT&T customers provides eligible customers a $12.50 per month credit on their landline telephone bills, as well as benefits such as free line connection and payment plans on outstanding balances. Call 1-800-335-8721 to sign up (TTY users call 1-800-980-4889). See http://www.att.com/gen/general?pid=10252 for more information.

SafeLink Wireless provides qualified applicants a free phone and a choice of three monthly minute plans without a contract or bill. Additional minutes can be purchased with a TracFone card. You can apply by calling 1-800-Safelink or online at: https://www.safelinkwireless.com/Safelink/program_info/faq/ohio.

Important Consumer News about Telephone Service

Telephone companies in parts of Ohio are attempting to discontinue landline phone service to customers or require that customers bundle landline service with other services. Senate Bill 271 which passed the Ohio Senate in February 2012 is now being considered by the Ohio House of Representatives. The phone companies say that by eliminating landline service they will have more resources to concentrate on other services customers want. The consequence may be that currently affordable landline service for seniors and low-income customers will not be available as early as 2014.

This FAQ was written by John Kirn, Esq. and Anne Sweeney, Esq. and appeared as a story in Volume 28, Issue  2 of “The Alert” – a newsletter for seniors published by Legal Aid. Click here to read the full issue.

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