Mandy Zalich, CEO of Westmoreland Community Action, expects to see an increase in requests for energy assistance over the coming months as rate hikes could add to an influx of those who have asked for help with their bills. of electricity during the covid-19 pandemic.
Requests for energy assistance come in waves and are often directed to programs offered by local organization Catholic Charities or the Pittsburgh-based Dollar Energy Fund, Zalich said.
“Summer is one of those waves,” she said. “With people using air conditioning, we generally see the need for electricity bills increase. We have seen an increase in calls and an increase in applications to the Dollar Energy Fund.
In the first half of 2022, Catholic charities helped about 400 families with utility bills in the Diocese of Greensburg, which includes Westmoreland, Fayette, Armstrong and Indiana counties. Requests for help have increased by about 10%, according to diocesan spokesman Cliff Gorski.
“There is currently funding available for Westmoreland County residents who are experiencing financial hardship, and we can assist those in any county who have been threatened with payment/budget plan termination,” he said. “Those with termination notices should also seek help.”
Among the assistance that eligible West Penn Power customers can request by contacting the utility: a low-income usage reduction program, which provides an energy assessment of the customer’s home and may include the installation of energy saving elements and measures; and an equal payment plan, which allows customers to make regular monthly payments to avoid seasonal highs and lows in their electricity bills.
“For customers who do not meet the income requirements to be eligible for these programs, we can negotiate payment plans to help them reduce outstanding balances,” West Penn Power spokesman Todd Meyers said. . “The last thing we want to do is disconnect customers, but we need to hear from them if they’re having trouble paying their bills so we can direct them to available support options.”
Duquesne Light Co. is “committed to providing our customers with as many resources as possible to help them through financial hardship,” spokeswoman Ashley Macik said. The utility’s Here to Help online platform includes information on discounts, payment assistance and energy-saving tools, she said, adding, “We’ve also increased the eligibility and expanded our Dollar Energy Fund earlier this year, with over $1 million in grants currently. available for electricity bills.