If you cannot pay your gas or electric bill during the COVID-19 pandemic because of a financial hardship, here is what you can do:
- To prevent shut-off after October 1, 2020, get coded as a financial hardship customer by your utility NOW. Call the utility or 2-1-1 for more information. This year, the protection will prevent shut-off from October 2, 2020, until May 1, 2021.
- Through October 31, 2020, no residential utility customer can have their service turned off without first getting information about financial hardship protection and payment assistance programs.
- You can apply for Energy Assistance to help pay your electric or utility heating bill (or deliverable fuel). For details, call 2-1-1 to find the Community Action Agency near you.
- You can ask the utilities for help paying your back bills. Several programs are available, including the Matching Payment Plan and New Start. Ask about these programs when you apply for energy assistance with a community action agency or when you call the utility or 2-1-1.
- If you can afford to make your utility payments going forward, there is a special COVID-19 payment plan for paying your back payments that waives late fees and interest. Payment plans can run for up to 24 months. Contact your utility company for more information.
- If you do not qualify for financial hardship coding, you can still keep your gas and/or electricity on by entering into a reasonable and affordable payment plan. In addition to your monthly bill, think about how much you will be able pay each month toward your arrearage and tell the representative what that amount is.
- If the customer service representative does not agree with a payment plan, ask to speak with a supervisor. Explain your financial situation to the supervisor and tell them what you can afford to pay each month.
- If the supervisor does not agree with you, ask to speak with the company review officer. If the company review officer does not agree to a payment amount that you say you can afford, next you can call the Public Utility Regulatory Agency (PURA).
- PURA’s toll free number is 1-800-382-4586. Explain your financial situation to the person at their consumer help line and ask them to help you make a reasonable and affordable payment arrangement with the utility company.
- You can also get help from Statewide Legal Services by calling their toll-free hotline at 1-800-453-3320.
If you have a medical condition (physical or mental) that requires a utility to be on at all times, you might have protections from being shut off by your utility company. If you have such a condition, ask your doctor if he/she can provide information to the utility company to protect you from a shut off.
You can also be protected from a shut off if there is a child up to 24 months old living in the household
- who has been admitted to the hospital, and
- got discharge papers from a doctor that say utility service is needed for the health and wellbeing of the child.
Ask the customer service person at the utility company where you should send your hospital paperwork.
The State of Connecticut has an energy assistance program that can help pay some of your heating costs during the winter months. Sign-up for that program began on August 3, 2020 and is ongoing. Be sure you contact your local community action agency to apply for energy assistance for the 2020-2021 heating season. To find your local community action agency, call 2-1-1.
Arrearage Forgiveness Programs
As mentioned above, there are several programs available for people who have very low income who owe money on utilities. You should ask your utility company if you are eligible for any of these arrearage forgiveness programs or matching payment programs. Your community action agency can also give you information and can sign you up for some of the programs when you make an appointment for energy assistance.
If you are receiving benefits from the Department of Social Services or other state and federal agencies, you may be able to be coded as a financial hardship (as mentioned above) utility customer and get shut off protection for the winter moratorium, which runs from October 2 until May 1 this year. Contact your local community action agency or call 2-1-1 right away for more information on how to get coded.