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Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
This program provides low-income families with limited financial help to pay winter home heating and summer cooling bills. You may apply at Department of Human Services (DHS) county offices during open application periods. You should contact your county DHS office to find out when applications will be taken. There is usually a brief application period in early winter for heating assistance and one in late spring for summer cooling assistance.
Share the Warmth, Light-a-Life and Lend-a- Hand:
The Salvation Army administers customer-supported utility assistance funds: Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG)'s Share the Warmth, Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E)'s Lend-a-Hand, and American Electric Power Public Service of Oklahoma (AEP PSO)'s Light-a-Life. These programs help Oklahomans facing financial emergencies pay their home energy costs. The programs are designed to help people over age 62, individuals with disabilities and those whose immediate cash resources simply cannot cover home energy expenses. ONG, OG&E and AEP PSO accumulate donations and send them to The Salvation Army. The actual recipients are chosen entirely by The Salvation Army. All applications for aid are processed through their network of caseworkers. The Salvation Army makes payments directly to the utility or supplier on behalf of the person chosen to receive the aid.
If you would like to receive help in paying your energy bills through one of these programs, you may apply at your nearest Salvation Army location to see if one of these programs is available in your county. If it is not, ask The Salvation Army if there are other resources available in your area for your energy needs. You’ll be asked to meet eligibility criteria for any energy assistance program.
Note: If you wish to contribute to any of these programs, contact your local utility or look for information with your monthly bill. You may also contribute directly to The Salvation Army designating your funds for energy assistance.
Other Financial Assistance for Utility Bills
Local charities sometimes have utility assistance subject to availability of funds and each organization has their own eligibility criteria. Some tribal programs also help with utility bills. For help in your area, call Office of Disability Concerns for local resources (405) 521-3756, 1-800-522-8224 or (405) 522-6706 TTY.
Free home weatherization for senior citizen homeowners unable to do the work themselves is available through O G & E’s Hand-N-Hand program. To qualify to have your home weatherized, you must be:
OG&E partners with the Oklahoma Association of Community Action Agencies. To apply for this program, call (405) 0199.
Senior citizens or customers with disabilities can request to have their accounts specially identified in their account records. With this knowledge, the utility is better informed and able to work with you on an individual basis in the event of an emergency, or a problem with your service.
Customers enrolled in this program also have their account included in a plan called the Commission Notification Procedure. With this procedure, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is notified before action is taken to discontinue a customer’s service for nonpayment of charges.
Third Party Notification
If for some reason your utility bill becomes delinquent, Third Party Notification will notify someone that you designate and make them aware that your account is past due. This feature is ideal for customers who live alone, who are ill or who are away from home for an extended period of time.
Financial Aid Assistance Delay
For gas or electricity, if you notify a utility that you have applied for and are waiting for financial assistance from a federal, state or local social service agency, you may qualify for a 20-day delay in disconnection of your service provided:
A utility company is not required to furnish service to a person unless there is a reasonable expectation of payment except where other rules of the Corporation Commission apply.
How to Deal with Payment Difficulties
If you cannot pay your bill in full, you may request a Deferred Payment Agreement. It allows you to pay your bill over an extended period of time, and service will not be cut off as long as payments are made as agreed. Utility companies make every effort to work out reasonable payment arrangements when you contact them.
It may be helpful for your budget planning to set up monthly averaging payments so your bill is approximately the same every month of the year. You can also arrange to have payments deducted from your bank account directly so you won’t forget to mail a payment. If you elect this service you will receive a bill in the mail showing consumption and dollar amount just as before with a note to not send a payment.
When you realize you will be late or need to make payment arrangements on a utility bill, it is better to call in advance of cutoff notices than when you are further behind with a delivered cutoff notice and another month’s bill on the way. Once you have made an arrangement, it is important to keep those commitments. If you break an arrangement, you may be required to pay the full balance to keep your service from being discontinued. You build credibility by keeping your commitments. If you need to make future arrangements, your record will show that you have kept arrangements made in the past. To protect their other ratepayers from absorbing losses, the company has limits on the credit plan they can extend.
An electric or gas utility company must suspend disconnection of service or reconnect service if the customer notifies the utility that disconnection of service will cause a life-threatening situation for the customer or other permanent resident of the household. The utility consumer may initially certify the condition by completing the Form for Utility Consumer Verification which will suspend disconnection of gas service to the specified residence for a period of thirty (30) days from the initial notification. After the initial thirty (30) days, normal collection action will resume.
An additional thirty (30) day period shall be extended by the utility company at the request of the utility consumer accompanied with verification by a medical or osteopath doctor (use Form for Medical or Osteopathic Doctor Verification). The request for the additional thirty (30) day extension must be made before the end of the initial thirty (30) day period.
The utility company is not required to furnish service to the consumer beyond a total of sixty (60) days for a life-threatening condition without full payment of the account or acceptable payment arrangements on any unpaid balance unless otherwise directed by the Corporation Commission.
Any false information a customer provides in order to prevent service disconnection under this provision is grounds for disconnection.
A life-threatening situation is defined as one where the consumer or other permanent resident of the household is dependent upon equipment that is prescribed by a doctor, operated by electricity or gas and is necessary to sustain the person’s life. Examples of life-sustaining equipment are: kidney dialysis machines, oxygen concentrators, cardiac monitors, and in some cases heating and air conditioning when prescribed by a licensed medical doctor. If battery back-up for the life-sustaining equipment is normally available, it is not considered a life-threatening situation. The Corporation Commission rules specifically list some items that are not considered life-sustaining equipment. They include stoves, hot water heaters, refrigerators, nebulizers that are battery or hand operated or “self-contained,” battery operated sleep apnea monitors or battery operated cardiac monitors.