October 18, 2004
Dominion and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) officials urge customers to look into the company’s budget payment plan and Energy Choice program, along with government energy assistance programs, to help deal with expected higher heating costs this winter.
Under a PUCO order, beginning today, residential Dominion customers, whose natural gas service has been disconnected for nonpayment, or are in danger of losing service, may restore service or avoid disconnection under a special, one-time, winter heating reconnection procedures in effect through April 15, 2005.
In accordance with this PUCO order, Dominion customers can maintain natural gas service, or have it restored, by choosing one of the following plans, whichever costs them less:
- Pay the entire past-due balance shown on the bill, not to exceed $175;
- Pay past-due default payments if a customer is on a special payment plan, up to $175;
- Pay $175.
Dominion’s Budget Payment Plan enables a customer to pay a fixed budget amount each month. Dominion periodically reviews a customer’s budget amount and may change it, if needed. Customers must be current with their bill to be eligible. To sign up, customers should all Dominion at 1-800-362-7557.
To participate in the major government energy assistance programs, income-eligible customers need only to fill out a single application form to enroll in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP), Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). For an application, customers should call the
State of Ohio HEAP office at 1-800-282-0880.
The Current-Plus Plan helps customers manage their gas bills. It’s available to all residential customers. They decide how many months – up to six – it will take them to pay off their balance. Dominion then divides the current account balance by the number of months the customer selects and adds that amount to the current monthly payment.
The One-Third Payment Plan is available from November 1 through April 15. With this plan, customers may pay one-third of their total account balance, providing they are not on the Percentage of Income Payment Plan.
Energy Assistance Programs
To participate in the following government energy assistance programs, income-eligible customers need only fill out a single application form to enroll in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) and Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). For an application, customers should call the State of Ohio HEAP Office at 1-800-282-0880, visit the Ohio Department of Development web site at www.odod.state.oh.us, or apply at the nearest community action agency.
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides a credit that is applied to a customer’s heating bill. To qualify, a customer’s yearly gross household income can be up to $13,965 for one person; $18,735 for two people; $23,505 for three; $28,275 for four; $33,045 for five; $37,815 for six; $42,585 for seven; and $47,355 for eight. Add $4,770 for each additional person. The filing deadline is March 31, 2005. For details, call the state HEAP office toll-free at, 1-800-282-0880. Customers with Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDDs) call 1-800-686-1557.
The Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) helps a customer maintain gas service by paying 10 percent of his/her total monthly household income. To qualify, a customer must meet HEAP/PIPP income guidelines and apply for HEAP. Household income means all money received during the last 12 months for all adults in the household. Gross household income is all income received before deductions. Income includes: wages, Social Security, state unemployment, veterans benefits, strike benefits, workers’ compensation, cash public assistance, relief payments, alimony and interest. It does not include money earned by children under 18.
To apply for PIPP/HEAP, customers should take proof of their total household income for the past three or 12 months to the local HEAP office. Proof of income includes copies of: payroll stubs, Human Services case card and Ohio Bureau of Employment Services card, check or determination notice. Customers can also use a statement from an employer. A customer should take copies of his/her natural gas and electric bills. For the nearest HEAP office, customers should call toll-free, 1-800-282-0880.
If a customer is no longer income-eligible for PIPP, or they voluntarily leave the program, the PIPP Repayment Plan can help them gradually pay off their total arrearage amount. Current or former PIPP customers should contact Dominion East Ohio at 1-800-362-7557, for specific information on the rules and guidelines of the PIPP Repayment Plan.
Weatherization Assistance may also be available from the Ohio Department of Development. This federally funded program provides grants for weatherization repairs. For details, call 1-800-282-0880.
EnergyShare, a Dominion East Ohio sponsored fuel assistance program of last resort, is designed to help needy individuals and families pay any type of winter heating bill—natural gas, wood, oil, kerosene or electricity. Customers should contact their Local Salvation Army office to apply. Applications will be taken starting January 2, 2005. A grant of up to $500 may be awarded to eligible customers.
Weatherization assistance may also be available through the Dominion East Ohio-funded Housewarming program, which provides up to $1,600 worth of weatherization materials to eligible customers. Households that participate in PIPP or HEAP, may automatically qualify for Housewarming. Customers should call 1-888-377-3774 for more information.
Another available option is the Medical Certification Program, which delays a shutoff, or restores service, when it would be life threatening, or especially dangerous, to the health of a permanent member of a customer’s household. Medical certification forms are available by calling Dominion East Ohio. The program allows customers to make payment arrangements--it does not reduce the amount they owe. Customers should call Dominion at 1-800-362-7557 for more information.
Customers should also consider the Energy Choice program, which afford eligible customers the opportunity to shop for competitive rates. The best source of Energy Choice supplier information is the PUCO’s "Apples to Apples" chart, which compares supplier offers. To get a free copy by mail, contact the PUCO at 1-800-299-7271 or visit their website at www.puc.state.oh.us. Another source of information for residential customers is the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel at 1-877-PICKOCC (1-877-742-5622), or visit its web site at www.pickocc.org.
Dominion is one of the nation's largest producers of energy, with an energy portfolio of about 25,500 megawatts of generation, 6.4 trillion cubic feet equivalent of proved natural gas reserves and 7,900 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline. Dominion also operates the nation's largest underground natural gas storage system with more than 960 billion cubic feet of storage capacity, including Cove Point, the nation's biggest and most active LNG facility. Dominion serves about 5 million retail energy customers in nine states. For more information about Dominion, visit the company's Web site at www.dom.com.
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||Neil Durbin , toll-free, 1-800-556-4400, or (216) 736-6239