Utility shutoff bans during the Covid-19 pandemic have helped millions of folks stay connected. Many states and utility companies placed temporary moratoriums on shutting off power, gas, and water. But many utility shut off bans are ending. And with millions of Americans still jobless, many face the risk of losing essential services.
When Covid-19 hit the U.S. in March, few people imagined the tremendous impact it would have. But six months down the line, we’re still dealing with its devastating effects.
Now, a lot of the financial help that was to see us through the pandemic has dried up. The $1,200 stimulus check is only a distant memory. The extended unemployment benefits ended in July. Now out-of-work folks face the prospect of getting utilities disconnected.
With utility shut off bans being lifted, where can you go for help? If you’re already having trouble paying rent, how can you avoid losing your gas, electricity, or water supply?
This article looks at where utility shutoff moratoriums are ending in the country. You’ll also find helpful resources on where to get help if utility companies threaten to disconnect you.
Utility Shut Off Bans During Covid-19
Many states and utility companies halted shut offs because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some 32 states passed moratoriums to prevent utility companies from disconnecting customers. Also, many utility companies didn’t pursue customers who couldn’t pay. But there was never a nationwide moratorium on utility shut offs or assistance for paying bills.
Keeping homes powered during the Covid-19 pandemic is vital. Most of us have been hunkering down at home to stay safe. But the coronavirus has forced us to get used to “new norms.” Netflix has replaced the cinema, cooking at home has replaced the local diner, and we’ve had to keep the air-con running in the heat.
Just think of how schools have changed. Millions of kids and students attend online classes. As schools begin reopening, many courses will be on Zoom, Skype, or other video conferencing. So, household electricity and broadband are crucial to education.
Where Utility Shutoff Bans are Ending
Many utility companies are now set to pull the plug on our services. How bad are things around the country if you can’t pay your bills? Here’s a snapshot of the impact of utility shut off bans ending:
- A report by Carbon Switch predicts that over 34 million people are at risk of utility shutoffs.
- Millions of households are 60 days or more behind on their electricity or gas bills in many states.
- Some states say that over 1 million customers could have their electricity shut off in September.
According to Time magazine, some states where utility shut off bans ending in September or October include:
- North Carolina
States with no deadlines for utility shutoff bans to expire include New York, Kentucky, Massachusetts, California, and Wyoming.
The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners has a handy map showing when utility moratoriums end.
Where to Go for Help if You Can’t Pay Utility Bills
Government resources such as LIHEAP can help pay utility bills. Accessing these resources can keep you connected to electricity, gas, and water. It’s also possible to reach out to your utility provider. Many companies have payment plans to prevent utility shut offs.
Let’s look at what assistance is available in your area to pay bills.
LIHEAP Can Provide Help to Pay Utility Bills
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps to pay for heating or cooling bills. The program also provides emergency assistance in the case of utility shut offs. You may also qualify for money to make your home more energy-efficient.
Generally, you qualify for LIHEAP energy payments if you are on a low income. But you should know that each state has its own guidelines on who qualifies. Also, getting help with paying for utilities depends on local state funding.
According to the government’s website, you usually automatically qualify for LIHEAP if you receive the following benefits:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Eligibility for assistance also depends on the number of persons in your household and your annual household income. For a three-person household, the maximum income per year can’t exceed $32,580.
You can find out here where your nearest LIHEAP office is located. You can also call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) office toll-free at 1-866-674-6327.
Utility and Charitable Programs
If you don’t qualify for LIHEAP assistance, there may be charities near you that help low-income folks pay energy bills. Local organizations can help organize payment plans to make it easier to access discounted energy. Some charitable organizations also give grants to pay utility bills and prevent shutoffs.
To find out what’s available in your area, check out the LIHEAP website to find more help. All you need to do is choose your state to see what’s available locally.
Get Help to Pay Energy Bills Through TANF
Also called welfare, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) can help you get through a rough patch. Each state has its own welfare program and eligibility requirements. But if you don’t have enough to make ends meet, you could get financial help.
Some of the help that TANF provides includes home energy, food, housing, childcare, and job training. Even if you can’t get direct help with paying your bills, financial aid for other things will boost your family’s income. This extra cash may give you enough to pay your next electricity or gas bill.
You can find out more about TANF at the Benefit’s website.
Call Your Utility Company to Help Prevent Shutoffs
It’s vital to call your utility company when you realize you can’t pay a bill. Most utility companies have plans to help customers prevent a shut off. You may be able to defer payments, work out a new payment plan, or switch to another cheaper plan.
Utility Shut off Bans are Ending: In Conclusion
Utility shut off bans are being lifted, and you may be facing more financial uncertainty. There are many state resources that can help pay for gas, electricity, and other utilities so you won’t get disconnected.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, check out these Covid-19 financial help resources. You can also find out where to get extra cash if unemployment runs out. Another option could be to look for opportunities to work from home.