COLUMBUS The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) reminds customers that the moratorium on electric and natural gas disconnections expires on March 18. Once the moratorium expires, regulated electric and natural gas companies will proceed with billing and disconnection procedures as outlined in PUCO rules.
Customers who have received a notice of disconnection from their electric or natural gas utility company prior to March 18 may have their service disconnected beginning March 19. The PUCO encourages customers who have fallen behind on their electric or natural gas bills to make arrangements to pay the amount in default to the utility company before the moratorium expires.
Customers are encouraged to take proactive steps now to ensure their service is not disconnected when the moratorium expires. There are a number of options available to customers to ensure their service is not interrupted. These include:
* Contacting the local electric or natural gas utility company to discuss payment arrangements for the amount due. If a customer was not previously on a payment plan, there may be payment plans available to the customer. To avoid disconnection upon expiration of the moratorium, the customer must contact their local electric or natural gas company directly to discuss their account. If a customer was on a payment plan prior to the moratorium and did not continue payments on that plan during the moratorium period, the customer will be required to pay the amount in default to the utility company to maintain service. Once the default amount is paid, the customer may be eligible to re-enroll in a payment plan with the utility company.
* Utilizing the PUCO's winter reconnect order. Customers who have not yet utilized this program during the 2007-2008 winter heating season may use this option to maintain or restore service. The customer is required to pay $175 plus a reconnection fee of no more than $20 to maintain or restore their electric or natural gas service.
* Applying for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) or emergency HEAP. Customers may contact the toll-free HEAP hotline at (800) 282-0880 or visit the HEAP Web site atwww.energyhelpohio.gov.The hearing impaired can reach HEAP at (800) 686-1557 for assistance.
* Contacting the local community action agency for information about other available assistance programs.
On Dec. 19, the PUCO issued a 90-day moratorium on the disconnection of residential electric and natural gas services. The moratorium was not a forgiveness of the utility bill. Customers are ultimately responsible for payment of the entire amount owed on the natural gas or electric bill.
Customers who have received a disconnection notice from their local electric or natural gas utility should contact their local utility company first to discuss available payment plans and assistance programs.
For more information regarding available energy assistance programs, customers may visit the PUCO Web site atwww.PUCO.ohio.gov or contact the PUCO toll free at (800) 686-PUCO (7826).