Where To Call?
You may directly ask about and apply for Columbia’s Low-Income Programs by calling 1-800-537-7431.
What Are The Names Of Columbia’s Programs?
- CAP (Customer Assistance Program)
- Warm Choice
- CARES (Customer Assistance and Referral Evaluation Service)
- Dollar Energy Fund – Hardship Fund
- Emergency Repair Fund
How Can These Programs Benefit Me?
- CAP lowers your monthly gas bill based on the amount of your household income.
- Warm Choice helps reduce household gas use resulting in lower bills.
- CARES connects you to local social service agencies that can help you.
- Dollar Energy Fund hardship fund provides grants to stop shut-off or to reconnect service.
- Emergency Repair Fund provides financial assistance in emergency situations involving unsafe service conditions.
What are the actual benefits I can get in CAP?
Reduced monthly payments:
- CAP customers pay a reduced amount for their gas, and the bill will stay the same each month.
- Columbia may bill you based on your income level, on a reduced rate, or at a flat rate. Be sure to ask for the billing method that works best for you and gives you the lowest bill per month.
Freezing past debt:
- If you were not enrolled in the CAP program in the past, then when you enroll, your past debt will be frozen. This means that as long as you make your CAP payments on time and in full, Columbia will not make collections on that past due amount and no fees will be applied against the debt.
- If you are removed from the CAP program for failing to pay your CAP bill in full and on time, then Columbia may begin collection on this amount.
Forgiving past debt:
- If you pay your CAP bill in full and on time each month AND you pay a $5 co-pay each month, your entire debt will be forgiven over 6 years. Each month, your debt will be reduced by your $5 payment plus a small amount of forgiveness applied by Columbia. Once your entire debt is forgiven, you will no longer be required to pay the $5 co-pay.
How do I know if I am eligible for CAP?
To be eligible for Columbia’s CAP, you must:
- Use gas to heat your residence;
- Have a household income at or below 150% of the Federal poverty income guidelines (click here to view a table with the Federal poverty income guidelines); and
- Have trouble paying your bill, such as missing a payment over the last 12 months.
What are my responsibilities to get into and stay in CAP?
- You must contact Columbia to apply. You can call them at 1-800-537-7431.
- You must fill out an application and verify your income.
- CAP customers will not be charged security deposits.
- CAP customers 60 years and older on Social Security or Disability Assistance are exempt from annual re-verification.
- CAP customers who have received LIHEAP, Dollar Energy Fund, or another Columbia Universal Services program are exempt from annual re-verification.
- You must pay your CAP bill on time and in full each month.
- If you have past debt that is frozen, then you must pay a $5 co-pay each month.
- You must apply for all other energy assistance for which you qualify. For example, CAP customers must apply for LIHEAP each year.
- You must apply for any eligible free weatherization services offered through the Department of Community Affairs State Weatherization Agencies and Columbia LIURP, if you are eligible.
- You must agree that Columbia can act as your purchasing agent for CAP Choice aggregation.
- If you own a pool heater, you will agree not to use the pool heater.
- If your service is off when you apply for CAP, you will be required to pay $100 upfront prior to restoration. Customers are encouraged to apply for LIHEAP and other programs to cover this cost.
Can I be removed from CAP?
- Yes, you may be removed from CAP if you do not pay your CAP bill in full and on time two times.
- If your household income increases above the eligibility guidelines, or you do not provide the requested annual income information, or you do not comply with program guidelines, then you may be removed from the program.
Can I get back into CAP if I am removed from the program?
- Yes. To get back into CAP, you must pay all of the CAP bills you missed, as well as any CAP bills that became past due during the termination notice period.
What is Warm Choice?
Columbia’s Warm Choice program helps households with high natural gas use levels conserve energy and reduce monthly energy bills.
How can I qualify for Warm Choice?
To qualify for Warm Choice, you must:
- Have a household income at or below 150% of the Federal poverty income guidelines (click here to view a table with the Federal poverty income guidelines);
- Consume over 180 ccfs of natural gas per month, on average, during the winter months;
- Columbia reserves 80 percent of its Warm Choice slots for customers who are enrolled in their CAP program. Therefore, being enrolled in CAP will improve your chances of qualifying for Warm Choice.
- Columbia also reserves a percentage of Warm Choice funds for special needs customers who have incomes 150%-200% of the Federal poverty income guidelines.
What are the actual benefits of Warm Choice?
- By participating in Warm Choice, you may reduce the amount of energy you use each month. This will most likely result in lower monthly bills.
- By participating in Warm Choice, you will receive a free home energy usage review, education to help you learn how to reduce your energy use, and the installation of energy conservation measures (i.e., sidewall and attic insulation and air sealing measures).
What are my responsibilities as a Warm Choice participant?
- To receive services, you must agree to submit verification of your household income as part of the application process.
- As a participant, you must agree to allow a utility employee (or subcontractor) to inspect your residence and perform an energy audit.
- You must also agree to allow a utility employee (or subcontractor) to inspect your residence one year after the conservation measures are installed. This allows the utility to determine if the conservation measures have been cost effective and helped you to reduce your energy consumption.
Columbia’s CARES program helps customers unable to pay their natural gas bills due to a temporary hardship. The CARES program connects customers with resources located in their own community. These community resources then help the customer manage his/her problems.
How do I qualify for CARES?
- To qualify for the CARES program, you must be a heating customer with an income at or below 200% of the Federal poverty income guidelines (click here to view a table with the Federal poverty income guidelines).
- You also must have either actually missed payments or anticipate missing payments because of some personal crisis that is causing you to have temporary financial problems.
What are the benefits to me of participating in CARES?
- Participants in CARES can receive free referrals to assistance agencies in the local community, such as a nonprofit organization or social service agency.
- Participants in CARES can receive referrals to other Columbia Universal Services programs.
- Participants in CARES may receive special payment arrangements depending on their payment history and on their specific situation.
Columbia’s Dollar Energy Fund hardship fund program provides customers with cash assistance to help pay down their outstanding balances. This program is operated by Dollar Energy Fund, a nonprofit partner of Columbia Gas.
What are the benefits of applying for a Dollar Energy Fund grant?
If you qualify, you may receive up to $500 toward the payment of your past due utility debt.
When can I request a grant from Dollar Energy Fund?
- From October through February, only customers whose service is off or have received a termination notice can apply for a grant.
- From March to September, any income-eligible customer may apply for a grant.
How do I qualify for a Dollar Energy Fund hardship grant?
If you are below 62 years of age:
- You must have household income at or below 200% of the Federal poverty income guidelines (click here to view a table with the Federal poverty income guidelines);
- You must have paid at least $150 toward your bill over the past 90 days;
- You must have more than $100 as a past due balance.
If you are 62 years of age or older:
- You must have household income at or below 200% of the Federal poverty income guidelines (click here to view a table with the Federal poverty income guidelines), and
- You must have paid at least $100 toward your bill over the past 90 days.
- You may have a $0 past due balance, but no existing account credit.
If you qualify to receive a LIHEAP grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, then you must apply for one before you can apply for a Dollar Energy Fund grant.
If you still have utility service, you must try all other available energy assistance programs first.
Can CAP Customers apply for a hardship grant?
- If you are a current CAP customer, you are only eligible for a hardship fund grant if your service is off in October, November, or December because of non-payment.
- If you are a past CAP customer, then you must wait one year before you can apply for a hardship grant to be used to make up missed CAP payments.
Columbia’s Emergency Repair Fund program is a ratepayer funded program designed to help low-income residential customers in an emergency situation, as long as grants are available.
How do I qualify for the Emergency Repair Fund?
- You must be experiencing an emergency situation involving unsafe heating service conditions.
- You must meet income guidelines, which change annually. You can call 1-800-537-7431 for information.
- You must own and live in your own home
What are the benefits of applying for an Emergency Repair Fund grant?
- If you qualify and funds are available, assistance can be provided to repair or replace natural gas furnaces, water heaters, service and house lines, and space heaters serving as the primary heat source in an emergency situation.