PUC Launches Annual “Prepare Now” Cold Weather Campaign
Published on 10/29/2020
Urges Electric & Natural Gas Utilities to Work Closely with At-Risk Consumers to Keep Households Connected and Safe During the Winter
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today launched its annual “Prepare Now” winter heating campaign, underscoring the importance of consumers, businesses and utilities working together during this unprecedented time for Pennsylvania.
The initiative emphasizes that PUC safeguards – including this year’s recently enhanced protections for income-qualified households and small businesses – are a starting point for assistance that public utilities can offer.
The 2020 Prepare Now Campaign
This year’s “Prepare Now” letter from the PUC Commissioners to public utility leadership across the state emphasizes that every utility can take actions right now to enhance efforts to reach at-risk consumers.
“Our public utilities are the first and most direct mechanisms to link struggling households with much-needed assistance. You provide essential services every day to millions of Pennsylvanians; you know your communities; you know the resources available; and you have the ability and the flexibility to work directly with customers.”
As the health and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic
continue to be felt across our state and country, it is essential
that we work together to ensure the safety of our neighbors
and our communities.
Last year, utilities across Pennsylvania spent more than $391 million on PUC-required customer assistance programs, not counting the federal-funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Collectively, these utility programs reach over 290,000 electric customers and approximately 160,000 natural gas customers, reducing monthly energy bills; promoting weatherization and other improvements to cut energy consumption; and supporting hardship programs.
As part of this year’s Prepare Now campaign, the PUC is urging utilities to work even more closely with households and businesses:
- Encouraging income-qualified consumers to apply for assistance programs – All eligible consumers, especially those who may not have been reached in past years, should apply for assistance from programs designed to help make energy bills more affordable, including Customer Assistance Programs, Low Income Usage Reduction Programs (LIURPs) and budget billing.
- Reminding households about LIHEAP funds – Grants under the LIHEAP or Hardship Funds may be available to assist struggling families. The new LIHEAP season begins on Nov. 2, 2020.
- Exercising flexibility and leniency – When establishing payment arrangement plans for all consumers, consideration should be given to circumstances such as lost or reduced income, extended illness of a household member, or increased household size and accompanying expenses.
- Educating consumers – Information about conservation and ways to reduce energy usage should be made available to all consumers.
- Enhancing charitable support – Increasing corporate donations to and fundraising for utility hardship funds and other community-based programs can assist consumers who need help paying their utility bills.
PUC Consumer Outreach & Education
The 2020 Prepare Now campaign is part of an ongoing effort by the PUC to educate consumers about the availability of income-qualified programs; increase consumer awareness of ways to reduce winter heating costs; educate consumers on energy conservation; encourage consumers to check electric and natural gas bills and supplier contracts; and inform customers about the PUC’s PAPowerSwitch.com and PAGasSwitch.com websites, as resources to shop for energy suppliers and learn more about efficiency and conservation measures.
The PUC consumer-educator team partners with various statewide community groups, state government agencies, legislators, human service providers, utility companies, community based organizations and many other partners to help educate, spread awareness and share many useful programs, tools and resources.
To schedule a virtual presentation or for more information, email the PUC’s consumer-education team at PA-PC-CMU_ConsumerEd@pa.gov.
About the PUC
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
Visit the PUC’s website at www.puc.pa.gov for recent news releases and video of select proceedings. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. Search for the “Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission” or “PA PUC” on your favorite social media channel for updates on utility issues and other helpful consumer information.
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