Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

Dealing with a mounting electric bill or shut-off notice can be scary, especially during the winter. Several programs offer assistance, but navigating them can be frustrating. They often have different income rules, and the applications can require you to submit multiple documents. 

Agencies in each county check qualifications and help people sign up for state utility-assistance programs. Most agencies will require you to apply online or over the phone.

There’s one number to call and make an appointment: (216) 350-8008. You’ll be asked to choose one of the two agencies in Cuyahoga County that handle applications.

CHN Housing Partners 

Schedule an appointment online

Document drop box: 2999 Payne Ave., Cleveland

Fax number (216) 912-0700

Step Forward (formerly Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland.)

Schedule an appointment online

Document drop box: 2203 Superior Ave., Cleveland

Email documents:

Applications can also be downloaded here and submitted by mail: 

Energy Assistance Programs

P.O. Box 1240

Columbus, Ohio 43216

Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP): 

How does PIPP work? Customers who qualify for PIPP pay 5% of their monthly income for gas and 5% for electricity. If a home is heated by electricity, the customer pays 10% of their monthly income for electricity, with a minimum of $10. 

Customers who make PIPP payments on time every month for 24 months can have their total balance eliminated. 

You can be dropped from the PIPP program if you:

  • Don’t report a change in income–like making more money. 
  • Forget to verify your income at least once a year.
  • Miss payments and don’t catch up by your “anniversary date,” or when you originally signed up. 

If you are dropped from the program, you will get billed for the full balance of what you would have owed on your utility bill. 

Who is eligible? Ohioans who rent or own their homes and who make less than 175% of the 2023 federal poverty guidelines, which for a family of four would be $52,500 or less.

Customers must receive electricity from private utilities, such as the Illuminating Company or Dominion, not public utilities such as Cleveland Public Power. 

What paperwork do you need? Proof of income for the last 30 days for people who live in the home, except for minors. 

How to apply: Customers can apply by mail, online at or with a local Energy Assistance Provider (listed above).

Customers will have to fill out the application, which is available in English or  Spanish, and provide:

  • Most recent gas and/or electric bills.
  • List of people who live in the home and their birth dates and Social Security numbers. 
  • Proof of income, such as paycheck stubs, for anyone in the house who is over 18 and working. 
  • Proof of citizenship or legal residency for all household members. Acceptable documents include a birth certificate, Social Security card, voter registration card or passport. 

Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP):

What is HEAP? A federal program run by the state that helps with a once-yearly benefit to help pay off an electric or gas bill. This program also is only available for private gas or electric customers, although Cleveland Public Power does accept HEAP payments.

Who is eligible?: Ohioans in households living at or below 175% of the 2023 federal poverty guidelines, or $52,500 for a family of four. 

How to apply: Call or go online with your local Energy Assistance Provider. In Cuyahoga County, that’s Step Forward or CHN Housing Partners. You can also apply online at or by mail.

What paperwork do you need? The same documentation as above.

HEAP Winter/Summer Crisis Programs:

What are these programs? They are branches of the HEAP program that are available once per winter (Nov. 1-March 31) and summer (July 1-Sept. 30). 

Who is eligible? Ohioans in households living at or below 175% of the federal poverty guidelines. These guidelines are accurate through May 2023. 

The Winter Crisis program additionally requires you to have been disconnected from your utility or have less than a 25% supply of bulk fuel in your tank.

The Summer Crisis program additionally requires you to have a household member who is either:

  • 60 years of age and older
  • Households who have a disconnect notice, have been shut off or are trying to establish new electric service.

How to apply: Contact your local Energy Assistance Provider. In Cuyahoga County, that’s Step Forward or CHN Housing Partners.

What paperwork do you need? Same as above with HEAP.

Winter Payment and Reconnection Plans 

Ohio requires these plans to be offered to all residential gas and electric customers (not including Cleveland Public Power) from October 1 to April 15, regardless of income. Cleveland Public Power voluntarily participates in what utilities refer to as the “winter rules.” Contact your individual utility company to learn more about  individual plans.

  • The Winter Heating Season Plan requires a customer to pay a third of their total bill balance each month.
  • The “one-sixth plan” requires a customer to pay their past-due bill amount in six equal monthly payments in addition to each new bill amount.
  • The “one-ninth plan” requires a customer to pay their past-due bill amount in nine equal monthly payments in addition to a monthly budget amount, based on estimated use. 

Ohio requires utility companies to offer a Special Reconnection Order from mid-October to April 15. This order allows customers who have been disconnected or are being threatened with disconnection to pay $175 to establish, maintain or restore their service, regardless of income.    

Cleveland Public Power is exempt but voluntarily follows the rules.

  • Once during the winter heating season, customers with overdue bills can be reconnected if they pay $175 plus a reconnection fee that can’t be more than $36 for that month. 
  • Customers who want to start a new service can choose to be charged $175 for a security deposit. Any amount higher than that can go on the next bill. 
  • Customers who are eligible for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) can use that program to pay the $175. For example, a family of four could make up to $$52,500 and be eligible.

FirstEnergy/Illuminating Company

Customers are eligible for emergency hardship funds, up to a maximum grant of $300 to customers who have had a disconnection notice or had their service disconnected.

  • A customer must have a gross household income at or below 200% of the 2023 federal poverty guideline (which is $60,000 for a family of four). The home must be individually metered, and the active account must be in the name of an adult resident in the household.
  • Must first apply for the HEAP program 
  • Must have made a “good-faith payment” in the last 90 days.
  • Documentation needed:
    • Copy of most recent electric bill
    • List of all household members’ birth dates and Social Security numbers 
    • Proof of income for at least the last 30 days 
    • Proof of all First Energy payments made in the last 90 days 
    • Proof of application to HEAP program
  • Apply by contacting your local Energy Assistance Provider. In Cuyahoga County, that’s Step Forward or CHN Housing Partners.

FirstEnergy also offers some assistance to customers through donor and corporate funds, although that money can run out each season. Call the Salvation Army in Cuyahoga County at (216) 861-8185. 

FirstEnergy does offer several additional benefits for people with family members who are active-duty military or who use electrically operated life-sustaining equipment in their home. Call 1-800-589-3101 for more details.

Cleveland Public Power

Cleveland utilities are not regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, but the city follows the same “winter rules” for electric service. Cleveland does not participate in the PIPP program. 

  • Customers can use a payment from the HEAP program, if they qualify, as a down payment to reconnect or maintain service.
  • To learn more about payment plans, call 216) 664 -4600.

Medical Certificates 

Customers facing a disconnection may be eligible for a 30-day delay if a medical professional certifies that the disconnection would be a danger to the health of the customer or that they or a member of their household rely on life-supporting equipment such as an oxygen machine. 

PRC: Prevention, Retention and Contingency

What is PRC? Parents, caregivers and expectant mothers can apply once a year for short-term emergency needs, including utility bills. Applicants must first apply to other programs for help. The payment is capped at $1,500 per year.

Detailed information for Cuyahoga County applicants can be found on the county’s website.

Who is eligible? Applicants must earn 200% or less of the 2023 federal poverty guideline, which is $60,000 for a family of four. Typically, approved applicants must not have more than $1,000 in the bank or available, but certain exceptions may apply. Applicants need to provide documents showing proof of income, residency, minor children, and an attempt to apply to other programs. Those documents can be:

  • Income: W-2 form or last two pay stubs
  • Residency: A utility bill with a shut-off notice
    • Columbia Gas: A termination notice 
    • Dominion/East Ohio Gas: Letter showing a shut-off notice or final bill 
    • Illuminating Co./FirstEnergy: Disconnection notice statement
    • Cleveland Public Power: Bill with a past-due balance
    • Cleveland Water: Final notice or statement showing the account is in shut-off or delinquent status. 
  • Minor children: Birth certificate or Social Security card
  • Application to other programs: Determination letter from the state

How to apply:

This guide was originally created as a project of the Northeast Ohio Solutions Journalism Collaborative. Signal Cleveland staff members Olivera Perkins, Abbey Marshall, Stephanie Casanova, Gennifer Harding-Gosnell, Candice Wilder, April Urban and Rachel Dissell updated the guide in January 2023. Mary Ellen Huesken edited the guide. 

Signal Cleveland is a nonprofit newsroom that fuses community building with local news reporting. We produce authoritative, trustworthy daily journalism across a range of topics, including government, economy, education, health, and safety and resilience.