Winter Crisis Program Offers Help to Ohioans With Past-Due Heating Bills, Disconnected Service

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click to enlarge Ohio electric customers are expected to pay about 6% more for home heating costs this winter. - (Adobestock)
(Adobestock)
Ohio electric customers are expected to pay about 6% more for home heating costs this winter.


It's beginning to feel a lot like winter in the Buckeye State, and the Winter Crisis Program offers the gift of warmth to Ohioans burdened by their home heating bills.

The program is part of the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), and offers one-time assistance to households that have been disconnected, are threatened with disconnection, are establishing a new utility service or have less than one-fourth supply of bulk fuel in their tank.

Tim Brown, programs coordinator for the Community Action Commission of Erie, Huron and Richmond Counties, said it is a crucial program helping Ohioans stay warm and safe in their homes.

"A lot of our customers and clients have to make decisions during this time of year whether to eat or heat," Brown observed. "So I know that importance of getting our customers set up for the HEAP program, the regular HEAP, and the winter benefit as well."

Households must have annual income at or below 175% of federal poverty guidelines, which is about $46,000 dollars for a family of four. The program runs through the end of March.

Customers of regulated utilities can receive up to $175 to put towards a heating bill, and must sign up for a payment plan if there is an outstanding balance after receiving assistance.

Brown urged households to request help before the situation is dire, and their service is disconnected.

"It is winter, and we really hate to see anybody go without service," Brown emphasized. "And we'll do everything we can do to get that service re-established. In fact, sometimes we can do it within the same day. But that is sometimes a challenge for us."

Brown noted his agency and many others are not accepting walk-in appointments. Ohioans can start their application online and call their local community action agency to schedule an appointment.

"Due to COVID, we have staffing issues like everyone else in the country, so we're doing the best we can," Brown acknowledged. "We all had to adjust, adapt, find new tools, find new ways to assist our customers. "

Ohio households receiving assistance from certain benefit programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are automatically eligible to receive home heating help through the Winter Crisis Program.
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