YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Restrictions that prevent energy companies from cutting off service for the winter months are over beginning Friday, April 15.

First Energy is urging customers that are having a hard time paying their bills to contact the utility as soon as possible to set a payment arrangement or get assistance before shutoff for nonpayment.

“The last thing we want to do is apply a late fee or issue a service disconnection notice to a customer when it can be avoided by contacting our customer service team to see what help is available,” said FirstEnergy spokesperson Lauren Siburkis.

Siburkis said many customers are not even aware that assistance is available, but First Energy customer service representatives can help walk them through the process. In addition, the utility has put together a video to help customers know that FirstEnergy employees are customers, too, and that financial hardships can hit anyone.

Some energy assistance programs include:

  • The Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP): Allows customers to pay a set percentage of their income toward their electric bill, regardless of the balance. Customers who pay on time and in full each month can have their outstanding balance eliminated in 24 months. To be eligible, customers must have a household gross yearly income at or below 150% of federal poverty guidelines and must meet other criteria. To apply, call 1-800-282-0880 or visit www.energyhelp.ohio.gov.
  • Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP): Provides eligible customers with cash grants for home heating bills and emergencies through HEAP, which is available year-round, and Emergency HEAP Winter Crisis Program, which is available through March 31, 2022. Customers must have gross income below 175% of federal poverty guidelines. Call the Ohio Development Service Agency at 1-800-282-0880 or visit www.energyhelp.ohio.gov for more information.
  • 2-1-1 Helpline: This nationwide resource and information helpline identifies locally available programs that may assist customers with utility bills or other needs. For more information, dial 211, text your ZIP code to 898211 or visit the 211 website.

Customer assistance programs through Ohio Edison include:

  • Ohio Edison Project Reach is an emergency hardship fund designed to help residential customers restore or maintain electric service. The program funding is provided by Ohio Edison customers and employees, and the distribution of funds is administered by Salvation Army offices located throughout Ohio Edison’s service area. To find an agency, please visit www.firstenergycorp.com/ReachAgencies

To apply or learn more about other utility bill assistance programs, visit www.firstenergycorp.com/billassist and click on “Search Assistance Programs.” Residents are also encouraged to contact their utility’s customer service team at 1-800-633-4766 (Ohio Edison) Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.