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I Can’t Pay My Electric Bill | What To Do Before The Shutoff Notice Comes

Tom Hartford, Senior Editor

February 21st, 2020

With mounting energy costs, it can be easy to get behind on your utility bills, including your electric bill. Thankfully, you can get help with your electric bill and avoid having your utilities cut off by getting financial assistance to help with your electric bill.


The national average electric bill is $117.65 (according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (PDF))


What to Do After Your Electricity is Shut Off

You miss a payment or two and come home to a dark, uncomfortable house. The refrigerator is dead, and you’ve got no way to watch the news. The utility company shut off your power. But you don’t have to stay in the dark. There are steps you can take to get the power turned back on, and sometimes, you don’t even have to make all your back payments.

1. Contact The Utility Company

The first step to getting back on the grid after not paying your monthly bill is to contact your utility company. Whether your heating bill was sky high or your air conditioning pushed you beyond your budget for bills, the utility company is the first place to turn.

Have you already paid off part or all of your outstanding debt? It’s possible that your payment hasn’t gone through yet.

If you haven’t paid any and can’t, calling your utility company makes it possible to learn your options. Did you know there are programs that help you pay your electric bills? You may qualify for a low-income home energy assistance program, for example.


2. Know Your Rights

When your natural gas, electric service, and other public utility bills go unpaid, you’re not instantly shut off from service. In many parts of the country, utility companies are forbidden from cutting off service during severe weather. This prevents you from going without power during extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter.

Find out the laws and regulations in your area to protect against being abused by your utility providers. During other times of the year, you may want to investigate a weatherization assistance program.


3. Limit and Monitor Future Electricity Use

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, don’t count on the kindness of your electric company. Instead, take steps to increase the energy efficiency of your home and you’ll wind up with energy savings. As a result, your utility bills will go down. Great first steps include: installing more energy-efficient LED bulbs, ensuring caulk is tight around each window, and wearing a sweater inside during the winter so you don’t need the heat turned up quite as high.


What to Do if You Need Help Paying Electric Bills

Need help paying your energy bills? There are ways to get electric bill help. Many communities have programs tailored to help low-income individuals pay their utility bills, and churches often help with electric bills as well.

Some utility companies even provide direct support. If you regularly require assistance with your electric bill, research the options in your area to get the help you need in order to keep your lights on.


Income-Based Payment Plans

Struggling to make ends meet? If one of the ends is your utility bills, you may qualify for a low income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP). With LIHEAP, low-income households get assistance paying for their energy usage.

Household income requirements vary by state, so research the specifics of your state requirements. These programs were developed to help hard-working Americans who struggle to make ends meet, so if you’re eligible, take advantage of them. A LIHEAP may be what keeps you from piling up more debt and maintain the ability to heat and cool your home at the same time.


Charities and Other Federal and State Financial Assistance 

In addition to LIHEAPs at the state level, there are also federal services to help pay utility bills that have similar eligibility requirements. But as mentioned above, government agencies aren’t your only option for help with electric bills.

Many nonprofit organizations in communities help low-income people get their power turned back on after an electric bill causes it to be shut off or prevent it from being turned off in the first place.


Short-Term Financial Solutions

Not able to access the help paying utility bills that you need? There’s one more solution that has helped countless people keep their lights on: a loan from Check Into Cash.

If you need emergency help with your electric bill and the utility company and others aren’t helping, a Check Into Cash Loan is quick and simple. You get the money you need to pay your bills, pay the loan off with an agreed-upon fee in two to four weeks, and get back to life. Even if you owe hundreds on past-due bills, a loan can help. Learn more about Loans from Check Into Cash here.

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