What to Do if you Can’t Pay Utility Bills

In the United States, there is no protection from having your utilities shut off for lack of payment. However, there are several things you can pursue that might remedy the problem.

Talk with the Utility Company

Your gas, electric or water company may offer plans that make paying your bill easier. For example, if you use far more gas during the winter in order to heat your home, the utility may have a budget program that allows you to pay the same amount each month throughout the year rather than being hit with very high winter bills. Sometimes the opposite is true in warm climates where summer electric use is much higher due to the use of air conditioning.

Ask the utility about charitable funds that help consumers pay their bills. Most utilities have these. They are non-profit funds that the utility donates to and asks their customers to donate to. The funds are often administered by local charitable agencies such as the Salvation Army.

Talk with your Community Human Services Agency

Most counties have a human services agency, a governmental branch that helps individuals who have serious financial needs. These are welfare agencies that provide money for food, basic shelter and utilities.

You will have to have an interview with an agency representative and discuss your needs. If you are not employed but are able to work, you may need to go through job training or be actively looking for work in order to receive assistance.

If you can’t pay your utility bills and the utility is threatening to shut them off, you have options. Contact your utility to see what arrangements can be made or what help can be provided. If you don’t get the help you need, contact your county’s human services agency.

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