Mandy Zalich, CEO of Westmoreland Community Action, expects to see an increase in requests for energy assistance in the next few months, as rate hikes might add to an influx of those who have sought help with their electricity bills during the covid-19 pandemic.
Energy assistance requests come in waves and often are referred to programs offered by the local Catholic Charities organization or the Dollar Energy Fund based in Pittsburgh, Zalich said.
“Summertime is one of those waves,” she said. “With people running air conditioning, we usually see the electric bill needs go up. We’ve seen an increase in calls and an increase in Dollar Energy Fund applications.”
During the first half of 2022, Catholic Charities helped about 400 families with utility bills across the Diocese of Greensburg, which includes Westmoreland, Fayette, Armstrong and Indiana counties. The requests for help have increased by about 10%, according to diocese spokesman Cliff Gorski.
“There is current funding for Westmoreland County residents who are having financial issues, and we can help those in all counties who have been threatened with payment/budget plan termination,” he said. “Those who have termination notices should also call for assistance.”
Among assistance that eligible West Penn Power customers can seek by contacting the utility: a Low Income Usage Reduction Program, which provides an energy evaluation of the customer’s home and may include installation of energy-saving items and measures; and an Equal Payment Plan, which allows customers to make consistent monthly payments to avoid seasonal highs and lows in their electric bills.
“For customers who do not meet income requirements to be eligible for these programs, we can negotiate payment plans to help them chip away at past-due balances,” West Penn Power spokesman Todd Meyers said. “The last thing we want to do is disconnect customers, but we need to hear from them if they are having difficulties paying their bills so we can help point them to the available assistance options.”
Duquesne Light Co. is “committed to providing our customers with as many resources as possible to help them through financial hardships,” spokeswoman Ashley Macik said. The utility’s online Here to Help platform includes information about rebates, payment assistance and energy-saving tools, she said, adding, “We also increased eligibility to and expanded our Dollar Energy Fund earlier this year, with more than $1 million in grant money currently available for electric bills.”
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .