Heating and Utility

New York State:

Does New York have a moratorium on utility shut offs?

Yes, through March 31, 2021, New York has a utility shut-off moratorium for residential customers who experienced changed financial circumstances due to COVID-19. To ensure your utility is protected, contact your service provider and self certify that you have experienced changed financial circumstances due to COVID-19.

Your utility provider must accept your self-certification and cannot require documentation of a job loss, pay cut, unemployment filing or other change in your financial situation as part of the self-certification. For residents who experienced a financial change, the new rules also require that any reconnections happen within 48 hours and that utility providers offer deferred payment agreements with no money down, late fees or penalties. The services covered by this law are electricity, natural gas, steam, landline telephone, and water.

Customers will still be responsible for paying their utility bill during and after the moratorium. Contact your utility company to arrange a payment plan to help you stay current on your bills and prevent large bills payments from piling up.

Does New York have programs to assist me in paying bills?

Yes, New York has a program called Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) that helps eligible New Yorkers pay the cost of heating their homes. All HEAP programs are income based. A family of four would need their income to be at or below $5,019 a month to be eligible. Only U.S citizens and “qualified aliens” can apply. Questions regarding this program should be directed to the HEAP Local District office. Click here to find your local HEAP office.

NYC residents must apply in person at their local HEAP office. Click here to find your local HEAP office.

Regular HEAP Benefit

Eligibility and benefits are based on income, household size, and primary heating source. To determine your eligibility and apply for services click here.

Emergency HEAP Benefit

The application for this benefit will open January 4. This benefit is designed to help you heat your home during a heat related emergency. Eligibility is based on income, available resources, and the type of emergency. If you have a heat emergency, you must contact your HEAP local district office, which can be found here.

Heating Equipment Repair or Replacement Benefit

If you are an eligible homeowner this benefit can help replace or repair your furnace, boiler or other direct heating equipment. To apply call your HEAP Local District office, found here.

New Jersey:

Does New Jersey have a moratorium on utility shut offs?

Yes. Governor Murphy has ordered that no household in New Jersey can have its electricity, gas, or water service shut off due to non-payment through March 15, 2021. If any customer has had any of these services shut off for nonpayment since March 16, 2020, they must be reconnected. In homes where children are attending school remotely, Internet shut offs are also banned until March 15, 2021.

Can I be charged late fees?

No, utilities and municipalities cannot charge late fees, or fees to reconnect services that were disconnected, through March 15, 2021.

Does New Jersey have programs to assist me?

Yes, New Jersey has several payment assistance programs for utility bills:

Universal Service Fund

This state funded program helps low-income households pay for electric and natural gas utility bills. Eligibility requirements are based on income and require that more than 3% of household income be spent on gas and/or electricity (or more than 6% of household income on electric heating). A family of four would need to make no more than $48, 470 to be eligible. USF can be reached at 800-510-3102. Applications can be filled out online, via email, or printed here.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

This federally funded program helps low-income households pay for heating costs of all fuel types. To qualify, a family of four would need to make no more than $52,400. LIHAP can be reached by calling 800-510-3102. Applications can be filled out online, via email or printed here.

Payment Assistance For Gas and Electric

This state funded program helps low to moderate income households in crisis pay their natural and electric utility bill. A family of four would need to make between $52,412 and $123,430 to be eligible. PAGE can be reached by calling 732-982-8710. For more information, click here.

Lifeline

Lifeline is a state funded program to help low-income seniors and the disabled with their electric and natural gas utility costs. Lifeline can be reached at 800-792-9745. Applications can be submitted here.

NJ Shares

This is a non-profit organization that helps income eligible households experiencing temporary financial crisis with arrears on their energy bill. The application and full eligibility criteria can be found here.

Connecticut:

Does Connecticut have a moratorium on utility shut offs?

No, the moratorium for utility shut offs ended on October 1, 2020. However state law says that a utility service cannot be turned off if the customer is actively trying to make a payment so if a customer wants to avoid having their heat shut off, they should call their utility company to arrange for a payment plan arrangement. Utility shut offs are also prohibited if the customer trying to appeal what the utility company requires them to pay.

How does a customer appeal what the utility requires them to pay?

If the customer can’t make an agreement with the utility company, they need to be given a report in writing, which they can appeal to the state’s utilities regulatory agency, PURA. PURA can try to work out a payment agreement with the utility company, and the customer can request a hearing.

Does Connecticut have programs to assist me?

Connecticut has both a winter protection program for low-income households and a COVID payment for those that don’t qualify for the winter protection program/energy assistance program.

Connecticut Energy Assistance Program/Winter Protection Program:

Eligible households for the CEAP may have part of their heating costs paid by the program. Accepted households to the CEAP are protected from shut-off. Eligible households must apply every year. Eligible households include:

  • Low-income customers who lack the resources to pay their utility bills;
  • Customers whose sole source of income is social security, veterans administration or unemployment compensation;
  • Customers who are head of household and unemployed if the household income during the preceding 12 months was less than 300% of the Federal Poverty Line;
  • Customers who are seriously ill or who have a household member who is seriously ill; customers whose income is below 60% of the state median income;
  • Customers whose circumstances threaten deprivation of food and necessities of life if payment of a delinquent bill is required.

Applications must be done in person at your local Community Action Agency or by mail. To determine eligibility and find the nearest Community Action Agency click here.

COVID-19 Payment Plan

The enrollment period is until February 9, 2021. No customer actively enrolled in a COVID-19 Payment Program can have their service terminated for non-payment COVID-19 payment plans are available to any residential or non-residential customer requesting assistance, without demonstrating financial need; require no initial or down payment, can be up to 24 months in length; waive any fees or interest in the calculation of the monthly payment amount; and facilitate the repayment of the past due balances in addition to the customer’s monthly billTo enroll in a COVID-19 payment plan, contact your utility provider.

Connecticut residents who are not in a Winter Protection Program/CEAP or a COVID-19 Payment Plan can have their utilities shut off.

Pennsylvania:

Does Pennsylvania have a moratorium on utility shut offs?

No, Pennsylvania’s statewide utility shut-off moratorium expired on November 9, 2020. However, special rules were put in place until 3/31/21 to protect low-income households.

What are the special rules?
  • Utilities shut-offs are still prohibited for “protected customers”.
  • A protected customer denied a stay by the utility may file a complaint with the Commission for review of the utility’s decision.
  • Utilities must waive all connection, reconnection, deposit fees and late payment charges for protected customers.
  • Utilities must issue an extra pre-termination notice to customers at risk of having their services shut off. Utility companies must contact customers at risk of termination about their options for addressing overdue balances and a time range for possible termination 10 days before giving a 10-day termination notice. As a result of this new rule, customers at risk of termination now have 20 days notice from their utility.
How do I know if I’m protected by these rules?

Income Requirement: incomes are no more than triple the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This is $78,600 for a family of four.

Other requirements: Protected customers must apply for “all available assistance programs” to avoid having their utilities shut off for nonpayment. Protected customers may also be required to request a payment arrangement from the utility.

Does Pennsylvania have assistance programs to help me pay my bill?

Yes, Pennsylvania has a low-income home energy assistance program that helps income eligible families pay their heating bills. A family of four would need their income to be at or below $39,300 in order to be eligible. Apply online here.

If you need advice about your situation, contact the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project’s hotline at 844-645-2500.