In Appalachia, where you most likely live, many people are just one lost paycheck away from financial disaster and it is a winter nightmare, suddenly having your utilities turned off. But it happens. That’s why the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has approved the Winter Reconnect Order to help Ohioans reconnect or maintain electric and natural gas service during the winter heating season between Oct. 17, 2016 and April 14, 2017. Any customer of a PUCO regulated electric or natural gas utility may take advantage of the order. Last winter heating season, more than 246,000 Ohio utility customers utilized the PUCO’s Winter Reconnect Order.
Customers who utilize the Winter Reconnect Order are required to pay the utility $175 plus any applicable reconnection charge not to exceed $36. If the company’s reconnection charge is greater than $36, the balance may be billed to the customer the following month.
“The Winter Reconnect Order is something that takes place with the beginning of every winter heating season and works in conjunction with the Winter Crisis Program that begins Nov. 1,” Angela Davis of Community Action Organization of Scioto County said. “There are many households that could not afford to get their regulated utility reconnected or connected if it was not for the winter reconnect. A person does not have to be income eligible for the Winter Reconnect Order to use it but they do have to be income eligible to apply for the Winter Crisis Program which can pay the Winter Reconnect fee.”
Customers who are at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty level may apply through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to pay the $175 amount. Several other state and federal programs are also available to Ohioans who qualify, including the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP) and the Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP). More information about these programs and additional ways to save on home heating bills this winter is available on Ohio’s Winter Heating Resource website at www.winterheat.ohio.gov.
The Winter Reconnect Order also applies to customers seeking to establish new electric and natural gas service. Rather than paying the full security deposit that may be required for new service, customers can pay up to $175 and be billed any remaining balance of the security deposit the following month.
If you would like to utilize the program, you can call your electric or natural gas utility between Oct. 17, 2016 and April 14, 2017, to find out more information about your account and how to apply the Winter Reconnect Order to your utility bill. Utility representatives will explain the order, and if applicable, set you up on a payment plan for any default amount. PIPP customers who would like to use the Winter Reconnect Order must pay the balance of any default they may have within one billing cycle in order to re-enroll in PIPP.
Customers who have questions about the PUCO’s Winter Reconnect Order may contact the PUCO at
(800) 686-PUCO (7826) or visit the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.