The 2016-17 Winter Crisis Program, which officially opened on Nov. 1, closed for the season on March 31. The HARCATUS Family Support Centers of Harrison, Carrollton and Tuscarawas Counties assisted more than 1,600 households with approximately $598,000 in emergency benefits.
The HEAP Winter Crisis program, which has been providing assistance to eligible households once per winter heating season since 1983, has reduced the number of households helped in the three-county area in the past three years by approximately 30 percent, which HEAP administrators said is largely the result of the PIPP Plus program for low-income customers of regulated utilities such as American Electric Power, Columbia Gas and Dominion East Ohio Gas.
The new Percentage of Income Payment Plan, or PIPP Plus, is designed to make monthly payments more affordable on a year-round basis. When a PIPP Plus household pays the monthly PIPP Plus payment on-time and in-full, some of the household's old debt and the rest of that month's bill is reduced in the form of a credit on their utility account.
For those who heat with natural gas the payment is $10 or six percent of your gross monthly household income each month, whichever is greater. If electric is necessary for the operation of the furnace, the payment is $10 or six percent of your gross monthly household income each month, whichever is greater. For total-electric homes the payment is $10 or 10 percent of your gross monthly household income each month, whichever is greater.
When PIPP Plus payments are made on-time and in-full, customers earn an incentive credit and an arrearage credit. Each time you pay your required monthly payment on-time and in-full, you no longer owe the rest of that month's billed amount. You also receive a 1/24 credit toward any old debt. If you make full, on-time payments for 24 straight months, all of your arrearages will be eliminated.
You must report any change in your household income to your local community action agency, such as HARCATUS. If your household income has gone down, the amount you must pay each month will also go down. If your household income goes up, the amount that you must pay each month will also go up. If your household income goes up so much that you are no longer income-eligible, alternate payment plans are still available.
Although the HEAP Winter Crisis Program is no longer taking applications, there may still be help available in for those facing the loss of their home heat. Regulated utility customers can sign up for PIPP Plus all year-round and may be able to avoid a utility disconnection if they are not currently on the plan.
The HEAP Summer Crisis Program for assistance with electric, air conditioning units and fans is scheduled to be available in July and August, but eligibility guidelines have not been finalized. For more information, contact HARCATUS at 330-343-8770, 740-922-3600, 330-627-4101, or 740-942-8886.