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Economy & Business

Need Help Paying A Past Due Utility Bill? Call Before The End Of September

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Allyson Ruggieri
/
90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania utility customers seeking COVID-related extended payment plan options have until the last day of September to set those payment plans up. As of next month, payment arrangements will still be available but will revert to pre-COVID rules, though advocates stress there is still a lot of help available for anyone who needs assistance paying utility bills.

About 750,000 residential accounts are at-risk of termination statewide – though that’s declined from almost 1.1 million households in October of 2020, according to the most recent statistics from the Public Utility Commission.

Those 750,000 households owe $664 million collectively, down from about $856 million earlier this year, the PUC said.

Utility terminations resumed April 1.

“The number of consumers and small businesses in Pennsylvania who are currently past due on their utility bills continues to move downward,” said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission. “But it's still a substantial number and those balances are still substantial. The payment plans, along with a lot of other assistance that's out there is a mechanism …to help them stay current, to help them stay connected and help them lay out a plan to move forward.”

Normally, payment plans are available to consumers, but the extended options available through the end of the month give a longer period to pay back past due balances and were available to more people at higher incomes.

We're very concerned about what happens at the end of this month,” said Elizabeth Marx, executive director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, which aids low-income consumers.

If you're falling behind or if you think you may fall behind, call your local utility, because we can explain all of the different programs that are open, how to apply for those. We can give you the phone numbers, the websites that you need,” said Rita Black, director of community assistance programs for Peoples Gas.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which aims to help cover back rental payments for tenants and landlords, can also be used to cover utility costs as well. In Allegheny County, it has paid out more than $2 million since it started in March, with an average payment of more than $900.

Need help paying a utility bill? Start by calling your utility company. Click to learn more about available assistance through LIHEAPAllegheny County emergency rental and utility assistance, or Dollar Energy Fund.