In the previous blogs, we discussed housing, credit card, automobile, and student loan assistance for Covid-19. This blog will discuss assistance for utilities and other services, which are important obligations for all households. Utilities include electrical service, natural gas, public water, and public sewerage. Since many are experiencing unemployment or reduced work hours, assistance for utilities is often needed. To find assistance with utilities, the first option is to contact the utility company servicing the household. Some utility companies are waiving late fees and discontinuing service disconnections. Some are allowing more time to pay utility bills.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, opens a new window (LIHEAP) may provide assistance to pay cooling and heating bills, or emergency services in the face of energy crises, such as shutoffs, low cost home improvements, or weatherization to make homes more energy efficient. However, LIHEAP does not provide assistance for water and sewer bills. Requirements for this program vary by state, city, or region. The local LIHEAP sets its own requirements and eligibility. Funding for the local area must also be available at the time that assistance is being sought. Contact the local utility provider for relief assistance with the company, or any relief assistance on the parish/county or state level. Some states have implemented relief assistance with utilities for households and businesses.
Service providers may include telephone services, Internet services, cable, satellite services, and more. As always, contact the service provider for assistance. Many have assistance that may include deferred payments, reduced payments, and waiver of late fees or interest. Some may waive service disconnection. Lifeline, opens a new window, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program, assists low income individuals and families with obtaining discounted landline or cell phone services. Some families may even qualify for free phone service based on household income. Qualification for this program include having income at 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines and/or participating in a federal program including Head Start, federal public housing, supplemental security income, SNAP, Medicaid, living on a tribal land, or receiving a federal veterans pension. Assistance can also be obtained by contacting your local social security agency or community action agency.