The joy of the holiday season can be dampened for Floridians struggling to pay their utility bills. The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) wants Floridians to know that help may be available.
“The holiday season can be stressful for those who are worried about paying bills,” Chairman Matthew M. Carter II said. “Many utility companies, as well as local charities, have programs available to assist residents. Florida recently received more than $100 million dollars from the federal government for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low-income residents pay their utility bills.”
The LIHEAP is a federal, statewide program that helps pay energy bills for households with incomes below 150% of the federal poverty level. To find out more about qualifications, contact your county's local LIHEAP agency, which can be found on the Department of Community Affairs Web site at http://www.floridacommunitydevelopment.org/liheap/index.cfm, or by calling the state's information line at 2-1-1.
Utility customers experiencing financial hardship can also contact their electric company and local charities to inquire about financial assistance offered locally. Customers can call the PSC’s consumer assistance line at 800-342-3552 for information about programs in their area or for information on how to work out a utility payment plan. If you rely on power to run medical equipment at home, contact your power company and enroll in the company’s program for customers who must have electricity for medical reasons.
Following are some of the assistance programs available from the five investor-owned utilities (IOUs) regulated by the PSC:
Florida Power and Light’s program is called Care to Share. The program provides emergency assistance funds to customers who are in a crisis situation and unable to pay their electric bill. The funds are disbursed through local non-profit organizations.
Progress Energy Florida provides assistance through the Energy Neighbor Fund. The monies collected are distributed to needy customers through local aid agencies.
Tampa Electric Company offers a 62+ Plan. TECO’s program helps customers who are 62 years-of-age or older work out payment options.
Gulf Power provides emergency assistance to customers who need help with energy bills, repairs to heating and air-conditioning equipment, and other energy-related needs. The programs assist the elderly, the disabled, the sick, and others who are experiencing financial hardship.
Florida Public Utilities Company will, on a case-by-case basis, offer extended payment options. The company also refers customers to agencies that provide assistance.
At least 18 municipal and cooperative systems throughout the state also have emergency assistance programs.
Lastly, customers can reduce their electric bills by learning how to reduce their energy use. Energy conservation brochures are available on the PSC Web site at: Publications/ConsumerBrochures or by calling the PSC’s toll free assistance line.
The PSC is committed to making sure that Florida's consumers receive their electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater services in a safe, affordable, and reliable manner. The PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in the areas of rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitoring of safety, reliability, and service.
For additional information, visit www.floridapsc.com.