Many Pennsylvania utility companies have programs to assist low-income customers. These programs may help you pay your utility bills or lower the amount of energy you use! A general overview of the types of programs utility companies may offer is found below.
See the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s website for your utility company’s programs that may assist you.
Budget Billing programs are available to everyone at no cost. The goal of Budget Billing is to even out your monthly utility bills so that you don’t have very high bills in one season (for instance, to heat your home in winter), and then very low bills in another season (for instance, in spring, when you need neither heating nor air conditioning).
With Budget Billing, the utility company takes your total annual utility costs and divides that total evenly across all twelve months of the year, so that you make regular payments each month. This can help you plan your budget with greater accuracy, because your utility payments won’t change month to month. The utility company can adjust the amount of your monthly payments up to four times a year to compensate for higher or lower actual usage in your home.
Customer Assistance Program (CAP)
If you are having trouble paying your utilities, CAP can lower your monthly utility bills. Your income situation will be evaluated and, if you qualify, CAP will calculate your bills based on a percentage of your income or on a discounted rate so that your monthly payments will be lowered.
Some CAPs also include the forgiveness of outstanding past debts. In order to continue receiving CAP benefits, you need to make full and timely payment of ongoing CAP bills.
Customer Assistance and Referral Evaluation Services Program (CARES)
CARES can help you by linking you up with local social service agencies and assistance programs. These local resources will then work with you to address the underlying problems that are preventing you from making prompt payment of utility bills.
Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP)
LIURPs help you reduce the amount of energy you use, thereby reducing your overall energy bills. If you qualify, you will receive an energy audit to determine your household’s energy use. You may then receive the installation of free energy conservation measures to help reduce your household’s energy consumption, with the goal of reducing your monthly energy bill.
Hardship Funds can provide you with cash assistance if you need help paying your utility bill or if you still have a critical need for assistance after other resources have been exhausted. Hardship Fund programs make cash payments directly to your utility company.
Telephone Assistance Programs for Local Calling
Three programs are available statewide to help you with telephone service if you qualify: Lifeline, Link-Up, and Toll Limitation Service (TLS). Verizon also has an emergency assistance program, known as UTAP, if you are threatened with loss of basic phone service. UTAP will provide a grant to assist you in maintaining your basic telephone service.
Lifeline reduces your monthly charges for basic telephone service. Link-Up reduces your cost to initiate new telephone service. Toll Limitation Service allows you to subscribe to toll blocking or toll control at no cost. Lifeline program benefits may also be available through some wireless service providers; however these programs can be applied to only one wireless OR one landline phone per household.
The specific benefits which are available and the levels of assistance differ from company to company. Contact your phone company directly or visit http://www.lifelinesupport.org/ for more detailed information.
The information provided in this section is for general reference only and is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. Since the programs may change from time to time, please do not rely entirely on these summaries, but feel free to contact the company directly, the PUC, or PULP.