Can my electric or gas company shut off my service?
Your electric or gas company cannot shut off your service if all residents of your household are 65 years or older without written approval from the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). Let your utility company know if all residents of your household are age 65 or older.
In addition, your electric or gas company cannot shut off your service if you have a financial hardship and:
- you or someone in your home is seriously ill;
- you have an infant under 12 months;
- it is between November 15 and March 15 and you need to heat your home; or
- all adults in the home are age 65 or older and a minor child resides in the home.
If you have a financial hardship, inform your utility company immediately. A financial hardship exists when you are unable to pay an overdue bill and you meet income eligibility requirements for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). You may be eligible for assistance if your household income does not exceed 60% of the state median income. Contact the Department of Housing and Community Development for more information.
Alternatively, the DPU may determine that a financial hardship exists.
Can I get assistance with my fuel bills?
LIHEAP helps low-income individuals and families with the cost of heating their homes during the winter season. If you are a first-time applicant, you must apply in person at the fuel assistance agency in your area. After that first year, you will receive an application in the mail. Applicants who are denied assistance have the right to appeal through your local fuel assistance agency. For more information, call the state hotline for social service programs by dialing 211 or (800) 632-8175 or you can visit the LIHEAP website.
If you are not eligible for LIHEAP, you may be eligible for help from the Salvation Army's Good Neighbor Energy Fund, which offers one-time grants for eligible consumers. For more information, call (800) 334-3047 or (800) 262-1320 if you live in area code 413. You can also visit the Salvation Army’s Good Neighbor Energy Fund website to learn about the program and review the income eligibility guidelines.
Am I eligible for a discount rate or other payment option?
You may be eligible for a discount rate from your utility if you are eligible for LIHEAP, or if you receive any means-tested public-benefit program, such as:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
- Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC)
- Food Stamps
- Refugee Resettlement Benefits
- MassHealth Basic and Standard
- Head Start
- Free and Reduced School Lunch or Breakfast Program
- MassVeterans Benefits (G.L.c. 115)
- Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for Surviving Spouse or Parents of Veterans
- Improved Veterans Disability Pension
- Commonwealth Care Plan, Types 1, 2, or 2A
- Health Safety Net Plan – Primary or Secondary
- Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
In addition, you can arrange for budget billing, where your gas or electric company estimates your usage for the year, divides the total by 12 months, and you pay the same amount each month. At the end of the year, your company will reconcile your bill with the amount actually used, and you will receive a credit (if you overpaid) or a bill (if you underpaid). Contact your utility company to set up budget billing.
Finally, you can contact your utility company to set up a payment plan, where you will pay overdue charges by paying a monthly amount in addition to your current monthly bill.
How can I reduce my bills?
To reduce your electric or gas bills, you can look into the following energy conservation options:
- The Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) assists low-income households in reducing heating bills by providing comprehensive home energy conservation services. For more information, visit the WAP website.
- The Heating Emergency Assistance Retrofit Task Weatherization Assistance Program (HEARTWAP) provides heating system services, including repairs and maintenance, to low-income households. For more information visit the HEARTWAP website.
- Mass Save is the rate payer-funded, utility-run energy efficiency program overseen by the Department of Energy Resources and the DPU. This program offers incentives to residential and business customers for energy efficiency measures. Visit the Mass Save website to find out what is available in your area. Among the services offered is a free home energy assessment that identifies energy savings measures for your home. You can start with the Online Home Energy Assessment to create an energy profile of your home.
For more information on how to save energy and reduce heating bills, you can read 15 Things To Do Now To Winterize Your Home and 6 Ways To Save Energy All Year. For additional energy savings tips, visit the U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Saving Tips website.