Dealing with a mounting gas bill or shut-off notice can be scary, especially during the winter months. Several programs can offer assistance, but navigating them can be frustrating. They often have different income rules, and the applications can require you to submit multiple documents.
- What to know when applying for help.
- What documents will I need?
- Where else can I look for help?
- How to apply for help with your electric bill.
- How to apply for help with your water or sewer bill.
Agencies in each county check qualifications and help residents sign up for state utility-assistance programs. Most agencies will be requiring 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.
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,” which is when you enrolled in the program. Hint: This date is printed on your bill.
If you are dropped from the program, you will get billed for the full balance of what you would have owed.
Who is eligible? Ohioans who rent or own their homes and who make less than 175% of federal poverty guidelines, which for a family of four would be up to $48,562 a year. Customers must receive their gas or 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.
- Your most recent gas and/or electric bills.
- A 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. Cleveland Public Power accepts 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 energyhelp.ohio.gov, 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 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 the 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 $45,850 and be eligible. Check eligibility here.
Dominion Energy’s EnergyShare program
Dominion’s EnergyShare is described by the company as a “last resort” program administered by the Salvation Army for Dominion customers who have exhausted all other forms of aid, including HEAP.
- Eligible customers may apply for EnergyShare between Dec. 1, 2022, and May 31, 2023, for a max payment of $300.
- Yearly gross household income must be at or below 175% of the 2023 federal poverty guidelines for eligibility, or $52,500 for a household of four people; or if the head of household is unemployed, or if the applicant is experiencing financial hardship; or if the applicant has received a shutoff notice or service has already been disconnected.
- Apply by contacting the Salvation Army office closest to where you live.
Columbia Gas of Ohio’s HeatShare program
Like the EnergyShare program, Columbia Gas of Ohio’s HeatShare program is described by the company as a “last resort” program that provides a one-time $250 grant per calendar year. It is administered by the Salvation Army for Columbia Gas customers who have exhausted all other forms of aid such as HEAP.
- Families qualify if they have an annual gross household income at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines (or $45,000 for a family of four).
- Households experiencing financial hardships may also be eligible for the program, determined on a “case-by-case basis,” according to Columbia Gas.
- Apply by contacting the Salvation Army office closest to where you live.
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 oxygen.
- The medical professional must examine the customer and has to fully complete the medical certificate form, which you can find by going to the PUCO’s website.
- The option can only be used three times in a 12-month period.
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 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:
- Download the application online, fill it out and email it–along with the required documents to Cuy-PRC-Application@jfs.ohio.gov or call (216) 987-7392 to leave a message requesting an application be mailed to you.
- Drop the completed application at a Neighborhood Family Service Center in Cuyahoga County. For example, you can drop it off at Cuyahoga County’s Workforce Opportunity Resource Center in Cleveland, at the Virgil E. Brown Building at 1641 Payne Avenue, Suite 120A.
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.