Help paying utility bills: Finding ways to keep the lights on

Money in envelope to represent help paying utility billsImage: Money in envelope to represent help paying utility bills

In a Nutshell

If your finances have been affected by COVID-19, your energy provider and local, state and federal agencies may offer utility payment relief — including payment plans or help finding other resources that might aid you in paying your utility bills. We’ve pulled together a list of major utility providers, relief information and other guidance to help you navigate.

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With the spread of the coronavirus, many utility companies are stepping in to help support customers who are struggling financially during this time.

If you need help paying your utility bills, take a look at this rundown of utility providers that we’ve complied, along with the assistance they’re offering and information on eligibility requirements.

Local, state and federal agencies are offering support, too. Below our list of individual utility programs, you’ll find information on other organizations that you may be able to turn to for help, as well as guidance on how to prioritize paying your utility bills.



What can I do if I can’t pay my utility bills?

Not being able to pay your utility bill can feel overwhelming. But you may get some comfort in knowing that your power company isn’t likely to shut off service due to nonpayment because of the current coronavirus situation.

If you’re having difficulty paying your utility bill, reach out to your provider as soon as you can. Utility company websites are a great starting point for information about assistance that might be available. You might be able to set up a payment plan, get some fees waived, or even tap into other support programs offered in partnership with government and social-assistance organizations.

Utility relief efforts

American Electric Power Company

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections
  • Payment arrangements

Eligibility

  • Suspension of service disconnections: Available to all customers
  • Payment arrangements: Available on a case-by-case basis

To keep up with the latest updates from American Electric Power Company, visit its COVID-19 page.

Consolidated Edison

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections
  • Payment arrangements
  • Bill payment support

Eligibility

  • Suspended service disconnections: All customers
  • Payment arrangements: Case-by-case basis
  • Financial help, such as bill payment support: Low-income customers and the elderly through various social service organizations (eligibility varies and is subject to available funds)

To keep up with the latest updates from ConEdison, visit its COVID-19 web page.

Dominion Resources

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections for nonpayment
  • Reconnections for customers who were previously shut off for nonpayment
  • Short-term payment extensions
  • Long-term payment plans

Eligibility

  • Suspension of service disconnections for nonpayment: All customers
  • Short-term extensions or long-term payment plans: Residential customers can appy as long as they’re not currently using “Budget Billing” or “Bank Draft” payment options

For the latest updates from the company, visit its dedicated COVID-19 web page.

Duke Energy

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections for nonpayment
  • Waiving of fees for late payments, returned checks and payments made by credit or debit cards

Eligibility

  • Suspension of service disconnections for nonpayment: All customers

To keep up with the latest updates from Duke Energy, visit its dedicated COVID-19 web page.

Exelon

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections and late payment fees
  • Waiving new late fees through at least May 1, 2020
  • Payment arrangements
  • Bill payment support

Eligibility

  • Suspension of service disconnections and waived new late fees: All customers
  • Payment arrangements: Case-by-case basis
  • Bill payment support: Low-income customers and the elderly through various social service organizations (eligibility varies and is subject to available funds)

The policies outlined above apply to all of Exelon’s power companies. To get the latest updates from Exelon’s power companies, visit their respective COVID-19 pages: Atlantic City Electric, BGE and ComEd.

NextEra

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections for nonpayment
  • Lower bill in May, reflecting customer’s savings for the whole year
  • Temporary payment extensions
  • Waiving of certain late fees
  • Bill payment assistance

Eligibility

  • Suspension of service disconnections for nonpayment and lower May bill: All customers
  • Payment extensions and waived late fees: Case-by-case basis, taking into account a customer’s payment history, length of time as a customer, past-due amount, age of past-due amount and timeliness of prior payments
  • Bill payment assistance: Low-income customers and the elderly, through various social service organizations (eligibility varies and is subject to available funds)

To get the latest updates from NextEra’s power companies, visit their COVID-19 pages: Florida Power & Light and Gulf Power.

PG&E

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections
  • Waiving of security deposits
  • Flexible payment plan options
  • Bill payment support
  • Suspended medical baseline removals

Eligibility

  • Suspension of service disconnections and waived security deposits: All customers
  • Payment arrangements: Case-by-case basis
  • Financial help, such as bill payment support: Low-income customers through various social service organizations (eligibility varies and is subject to available funds)
  • Medical Baseline program: Existing members will not be asked to re-certify through a doctor or other eligible medical professionals for up to one year

To keep up with the latest updates from PG&E, visit its COVID-19 web page.

Public Service Enterprise Group

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections
  • Payment arrangements
  • Bill payment support

Eligibility

  • Suspension of service disconnections: All customers
  • Payment arrangements: Case-by-case basis
  • Financial help, such as bill payment support: Low-income customers and the elderly through various social service organizations (eligibility varies and is subject to available funds)

For the latest updates from Public Service Enterprise Group’s power companies, visit their respective COVID-19 web pages: PSE&G New Jersey and PSE&G Long Island.

Southern Company

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections for nonpayment
  • Suspension of late fees
  • Payment arrangements
  • Bill payment support

Eligibility

  • Suspension of service disconnections and late fees: All customers in need
  • Payment arrangements: Case-by-case basis
  • Financial help, such as bill payment support: Low-income customers and the elderly through various social service organizations (eligibility varies and is subject to available funds)

The policies outlined above apply to all of Southern Company’s power companies. But to get the latest updates, visit each of their COVID-19 pages: Alabama Power, Georgia Power and Mississippi Power.

Xcel Energy

What it’s offering

  • Suspension of service disconnections
  • Payment arrangements

Eligibility

  • Suspension of service disconnections: All customers
  • Payment arrangements: Case-by-case basis

To keep up with the latest updates from Xcel Energy, visit its COVID-19 web page.

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Other organizations offering help

While working with your utility company is a great place to start, you can also explore other resources. Here are a few ideas.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

This federal program may be able to help you get government assistance to pay your utility bill. Eligibility requirements differ from one local office to another, so it’s best to contact your nearest LIHEAP office for details.

Local help

Reaching out to your local social service agencies, nonprofits and other charitable organizations may lead you to financial support. Here are some resources to consider.

  • HUD Search assistance programs by state.
  • United Way Find tips and resources to help pay your bills.
  • Benefits.gov Use the “Benefit Finder” tool to help find any financial benefits that you may qualify for. 
  • Your state’s website Some states are barring utility companies from shutting off services during the outbreak. Get the latest information on state rulings and assistance programs that may be available.  
  • Call 2-1-1 — Active in all 50 states, this phone line offers a critical connection for individuals and families in need of support from community-based organizations and government agencies. Operators can provide referrals for a range of needs, including utility assistance.            

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Help prioritizing paying my utility bills

If you’re unsure how to prioritize paying your utility bills along with your other expenses, it might be a good idea to get some financial advice. Consider these options.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling — Counselors are available 24/7 to assist with issues such as job loss, temporary loss of income or financial hardship. You can also explore online resources and videos that can help you create an emergency budget and prepare financially. See the foundation’s website to connect.
  • Foundation for Financial Planning — As part of a special program, some financial advisers are offering financial-planning services free of charge to those experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. The Foundation for Financial Planning has a resource page you can visit. You can also try the Financial Planning Association’s pro bono page and XY Planning Network.

Next steps

If you’re having trouble financially and struggling to pay your utility bill, it’s time to act. Call your utility company to make a plan or start exploring local resources for assistance. And if you aren’t currently having difficulties, it’s probably a good time to work on your emergency fund and take a closer look at your budgeting.