Utility companies across Pennsylvania can begin shutting off services again due to unpaid bills

PITTSBURGH — Utility companies across Pennsylvania can begin shutting off services due to unpaid bills.

Between Dec. 1 and March 31, most eligible households cannot have electric, natural gas or heat-related water services turned off due to unpaid bills because of an annual winter moratorium. Also on March 31, Allegheny County stopped accepting applications for its Emergency Rental Assistance program. Programs in other surrounding counties continue to accept applications.

“It’s kind of the perfect storm coming together,” said United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania Senior Director of 211 Cinda Watkins.

The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania says it has had about a 25% uptick in calls to its 211 service.

“This year, we’ve had over 19,500 requests for utility assistance,” said Watkins.

The United Way’s 211 service is available 24/7. There’s also a text feature.

“We talk about pointing them to their utility companies they received the notices from but there might be other assistance,” said Watkins. “LIHEAP is an excellent resource for individuals who might be in this situation. Along with programs that Dollar Energy fund offers.”

According to the most recent utility reports submitted to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, more than 700,000 customers are at risk of termination for nearly $650 million in unpaid services.

Duquesne Light says about 8,000 customers are due to have services shut off and 30,000 customers have been informed their services could be terminated. Katie Scholl with Duquesne Light says these numbers are comparable to the numbers they saw before the pandemic.

“Really we’re trying to do a lot of outreach to let them know assistance is available and get them connected with that assistance so we don’t have to get to that point of shutoff,” said Duquesne Light Director of Billing and Revenue Management Katitie Scholl.

Some of that help includes the Customer Assistance Program, The Dollar Energy Fund and LIHEAP.

Pennsylvania American Water offers a customer assistance program, information regarding the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), as well as payment arrangements.

“In the first 10 weeks of the LIHWAP, Pennsylvania American Water customers have received more than 4,000 grants totaling more than $2 million in assistance,” said Pennsylvania American Water Senior Manager Gary Lobaugh.

You can find more resources below from each utility company:

Pennsylvania American Water

Customer Assistance Program

Pennsylvania American Water’s H2O Help to Others Program offers water and wastewater customers who qualify.

Water Assistance

  • Grants of up to $500 per year to be used toward household’s water bills
  • An 85% discount on the monthly service fee and 10% discount on the monthly volumetric charges, which saves the average residential customer using 3,458 gallons/month $18.94 every month
  • Water-saving devices and education

Click here to learn more: amwater.com/paaw/customer-service-billing/customer-assistance-programs/

Wastewater Assistance

  • Grants of up to $500 per year to be used toward household’s wastewater bills
  • A 30% discount on the total wastewater charges, which saves the average residential customer using 3,458 gallons/month $20.38 every month

LIHWAP

The PA Department of Human Services launched the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) on January 4, 2022. The program is a temporary emergency program to help low-income families pay overdue water and wastewater bills.

LIHWAP crisis grants may be available for customers with an emergency who are in jeopardy of losing their water service. LIHWAP is a grant. You do not have to repay it. Customers can receive one crisis grant for your drinking water service and one crisis grant for your wastewater service, up to $2,500 each. Crisis situations include:

  • Past-due water bills.
  • Termination of utility service.
  • Danger of having utility service terminated (received a notice that service will be shut off within the next 60 days).

Learn more on how to apply here: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/LIHWAP.aspx

Payment arrangements

Pennsylvania American Water understands that not all customers meet the requirements, however, we do know that issues arise that may strain finances for everyone.

We want our customers to know that if you cannot pay your bill by the due date, please contact our customer service center immediately, BEFORE the due date, at 1-800-565-7292.

We will work with you to determine payment plan options that may be available.


First Energy

Payment Arrangements & Assistance Programs: If you are having difficulty paying your residential bill, you may be eligible for outside assistance programs and payment arrangements based on your household income level.

To avoid termination, call to arrange a payment plan and visit Assistance Programs to search for the agencies that may be able to provide help paying your bill.


West Penn Power

Visit our newly designed Bill Assistance web page at www.firstenergycorp.com/billassist and to see available programs based on income and household size

  • Fill out a form to contact a customer service representative with any questions or concerns
  • Contact our dedicated customer service team Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., at 1-800-545-7741

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority

  • LIHWAP Statewide Customer Service Center at 877-395-8930 or call PA Relay at 711 for the hearing impaired to see if they are eligible for the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) grants totaling up to $2,500 for each water and wastewater service;
  • PGH2O Cares team at 412-255-2457 to see if they are eligible for a hardship grant and the bill discount program; and
  • PWSA Customer Service at 412-255-2423to see if they are eligible for an income-based payment plan, need to file a Medical exemption, or need to file a Protection from Abuse Order.

Duquesne Light

People’s Gas