Programs offering utilities help often require lots of personal and financial information. Here’s some tips for what items to gather up and additional resources to help with the application process.
- 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 gas bill.
- How to apply for help with your sewer or water bill.
What to know when applying for help
Save copies of your bills or disconnection notices
Some programs will require proof your utility has been shut off or at risk of being disconnected. This could be an actual bill or a photo of the bill showing your name and address.
Keep proof when you apply for programs
Some programs will ask for proof that you have applied for HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) and PIPP (Percentage of Income Payment Plan). These are the two main federal energy assistance programs available in Ohio.
Gather documents before you apply
Have your income information and other bills and documents ready before you start an application. For online submissions, a cellphone photo of these documents is good enough if you are submitting them online.
You can make copies or send faxes of your documents from your local library branch. Libraries also have computers available to fill out online applications.
Keep your originals
Make copies or take photos of your documents to submit. Hang on to your original documents.
If you have no income, you’ll be asked for an IRS tax transcript. If you filed a tax return, or even if you did not, you can go to https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript to get your transcript.
Check back often
Local nonprofits that take applications for the federal utility assistance often require you to make an appointment. Step Forward and CHN Housing Partners in Cleveland have limited time slots for appointments, which are often virtual or over the phone. Check in the morning or several times throughout the day.
What documents will I need?
- Copies of past-due utility bills
- Photo ID
- Social Security cards for household members. Can include printouts from Social Security showing the full number.
- Medicaid cards and Ohio Works First SNAP printouts.
- Proof of one month of income for everybody 18 or older in a household. (Keep each pay stub you’ve received for the month.)
- Proof of citizenship or legal residency: Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports. Only U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or immigrants with a qualified alien (immigrant) status are eligible for most of these programs. Some agencies will only accept birth certificates (or newborn birth letters).
- Proof that you have applied for programs such as HEAP and PIPP.
- Proof of any disability or health issue such as a note from your doctor or counselor.
How do I know if my income qualifies me for help?
Most programs require proof that your household income is at or below a certain level each year or monthly, and require information for all working adults in the home. Check the chart below by matching the number of people in the home with the 2023 federal poverty level percentage mentioned on the utility application.
Where else can I look for help?
Call United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline or use the chat on the website for the most up-to-date information. Trained navigators will help you understand what help is available, whether it’s for utility bills or for help finding housing or food. Some local service providers are:
Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland: (216) 861-8185
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland: (216) 687-1900 (216-586-3190 for Spanish)
Northeast Ohio Coalition to End Homelessness (call to reach an outreach worker if you are homeless): (216) 432-0540
Catholic Charities: (800) 860-7373
Cleveland Public Library: (216) 623-2800. (Check here for help with printing from your computer or phone.)
Lakewood Community Services Center: (216) 226-6466
Greater Cleveland Food Bank Help Center: (216) 738-2067
Community Housing Solutions: (216) 231-5815
Cuyahoga County Job and Family Services: (844) 640-6646
EDEN: (216) 961-9690
May Dugan Center: (216) 631-5800
Journey Center for Safety and Healing (for survivors of domestic or sexual violence): (216) 229-2420
For birth certificates: Cleveland Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics at (866) 691-1914.