Connecticut Light and Power isn't exactly on most people's Christmas-card list right now. But the electric utility and its natural gas counterparts, Yankee Gas, are offering valuable programs for customers who may have a problem paying electric or gas bills this winter. And now is the time to act, not when you are in the throes of Old Man Winter and there's less state and federal funding available.
Here's a rundown of the programs available, courtesy of Northeast Utilities. Keep in mind that most are first-come, first-serve:
Winter Protection Program
CL&P and Yankee Gas offer winter-protection programs that protect qualified, income-eligible customers from electric service shut-offs or natural gas shut-offs for nonpayment from Nov. 1, 2011, to May 1, 2012. Customers must sign up annually for this program — there is no automatic renewal. To qualify, a customer's total household income will be considered. Additional criteria that may also qualify a customer for Winter Protection can include aid to the blind, elderly and disabled, temporary family assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, general assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or a serious or life-threatening illness in the household. Customers still receive their bills and should try to pay what they can each month to avoid a larger balance due when the protection period ends.
Matching Payment Program
This program allows limited-income customers with past-due balances to work out monthly payment arrangements so their service is provided year-round. Customers must heat with electricity to qualify for the CL&P Matching Payment Program or heat with natural gas to qualify for the Yankee Gas Matching Payment Program. In addition, a customer's total household income will be considered. They must apply for and be granted energy assistance funds and must make and keep a monthly payment arrangement. CL&P and Yankee Gas customers who maintain eligibility under the Matching Payment Program will see an additional reduction in their past-due amount for every dollar paid. Customers who successfully complete the program will also receive a match on their energy assistance reward, up to a zero balance. CL&P customers who want more information about the Winter Protection and Matching Payment programs should call 800-286-2828 (860-947-2828 in the Hartford and Meriden calling areas). Yankee Gas customers should call 800-438-2278.
Home Energy Solutions — Income Eligible (HES-IE)
Formerly known as the "WRAP'" program, this free program helps both CL&P and Yankee Gas limited-income customers (renters or owners) make their homes more energy-efficient, while promoting energy conservation. Through this program, customers can lower their energy use, conserve hot water, reduce heat loss and switch to energy-efficient lighting. For more information, or to obtain an application, call 800-388-9727.
CL&P and Yankee Gas offer Budget Billing. The program helps customers manage expenses by equalizing monthly bills based on annual energy usage history. Budget Billing helps avoid seasonal peaks associated with heating and cooling months. Accounts are reviewed monthly and budgeted amounts are adjusted if necessary. To sign up for CL&P's Budget Billing program, call 800-286-2000 or visit www.cl-p.com. To sign up for the Yankee Gas Budget Billing program, call 800-989-0900 or visit www.yankeegas.com.
The NUSTART Program helps limited-income CL&P customers maintain year-round electric service. Customers can reduce and eliminate past-due balances if they pay their monthly budget amount on time, each month. To learn more about the NUSTART program, call 800-286-2828.
State Energy Assistance Programs
Limited-income customers may also qualify for state-administered programs, including the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) or the Contingency Heating Assistance Program (CHAP). There are also programs such as Operation Fuel that assist customers who are not eligible for state or federal assistance. Call 2-1-1 to learn more about these.