Help available for families behind on utility bills

For many families, the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough. Many people were laid off, while others changed careers due to unforeseen circumstances caused by a changing economy. As a result, many families have fallen behind on their utility bills.

Andrew Tinkham, Senior Outreach and Education Program Specialist with the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the help that is available for families.

Behind on your bills? Payment plans are available

Tinkham said there are several programs available to help consumers who are struggling with their energy bills. Many families are currently facing high bills, especially given the intense heat and humidity of the summer.

If consumers fall behind on their utility bills, they can set up a payment plan. In Ohio, regulated utility companies are required to work out agreements with consumers to make plans more affordable when families get behind.

For example, the one-sixth payment plan divides what a family owes into six portions. The family then pays their current bill and the one-sixth portion each month until they have paid off their debt. Tinkham explained there are variations of this plan based on the monthly amount the consumer can afford to pay.

Such payment plans are available to all consumers who have utility services through regulated utility companies like AEP, FirstEnergy and Dominion.

Additional programs for families who need help

Those who fall behind on their bills may also qualify for the Summer Crisis Program. During the summer months, qualified consumers may receive up to $500 to pay an electric bill or repair a central air conditioning unit. In order to qualify for the program, households must have a gross annual income at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. In addition to that income requirement, households must meet at least one of the following conditions:

Have at least one member who is 60 years or older.
Have a member with a medical need verified by a physician.
Have an electric disconnection notice or their electricity is currently disconnected.
Have a household member diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 12 months.

More information about the program can be found on the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel website.

Caution urged with door-to-door utility salesmen

Tinkham also cautioned consumers about door-to-door salesmen who offer to change utility providers. He said such changes require extensive research and should not be made during these encounters. He pointed out that people are not required to answer the door and speak to these salesmen. Tinkham also cautioned against sharing their utility account information with these individuals.


America’s Work Force Radio Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play and wherever you stream your podcasts.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Google Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Listen on iHeart Radio


AMERICA’S WORK FORCE IS THE ONLY DAILY LABOR-RADIO PROGRAM IN THE US AND HAS BEEN ON THE AIR SINCE 1993, SUPPLYING LISTENERS WITH USEFUL, RELEVANT INPUT INTO THEIR DAILY LIVES THROUGH FACT-FINDING FEATURES, IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS, INFORMATIVE NEWS SEGMENTS AND PRACTICAL CONSUMER REPORTS. AMERICA’S WORK FORCE IS COMMITTED TO PROVIDING AN ACCESSIBLE VENUE IN WHICH AMERICA’S WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES CAN HEAR DISCUSSION ON IMPORTANT, RELEVANT TOPICS SUCH AS EMPLOYMENT, HEALTHCARE, LEGISLATIVE ACTION, LABOR-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS, CORPORATE PRACTICES, FINANCES, LOCAL AND NATIONAL POLITICS, CONSUMER REPORTS AND LABOR ISSUES.

AMERICA’S WORK FORCE RADIO IS BROUGHT TO YOU IN PART BY OUR SPONSORS AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF MUSICIANS, BMA MEDIA GROUP, COLUMBUS-CENTRAL OHIO BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL, COMMUNICATION WORKERS OF AMERICA, HEAT AND FROST INSULATORS AND ALLIED WORKERS, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, INTERNATIONAL UNION OF PAINTERS AND ALLIED TRADES DISTRICT COUNCIL 6, KELLEY & FERRARO, LLP,  LABOR CITIZEN MAGAZINE, LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, NORTH COAST AREA LABOR FEDERATION, MARITIME TRADES DEPARTMENT, OHIO FEDERATION OF TEACHERS-AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, UNITED AUTO WORKERS, UNITED LABOR AGENCY, UNITED STEELWORKERS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.