CenterPoint Energy urges its customers who need energy assistance to apply as the deadline is nearing.
CenterPoint Energy representatives will refer customers to agencies that may be able to help them through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program grant process so they can get the dollars they need to catch up on past-due natural gas payments and avoid service shut-off.
The state of Minnesota will accept LIHEAP applications through Thursday.
"Due to the economy there is a whole new group of customers who are struggling," Greg Schirmers, CenterPoint Energy credit manager, said in an e-mail news release. "They are often unaware of the assistance available to them, so we are looking for every opportunity to communicate how our customers can get the assistance they need."
Lower natural gas prices have brought relief to customers, resulting in cost savings essential to low-income families. According to the Department of Energy's office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, natural gas will cost less in 2009 than other energy sources.
Customers who provide proof of income and meet income guidelines set by the state of Minnesota at or below 50 percent of the state median income are eligible for assistance. The program, funded by U.S. Department of Human Services and administered by the state Office of Energy Securities, provides grants based on household size, income, fuel type and energy usage costs. The program provides direct payment to the customer's energy provider.
By taking a few steps now, customers can avoid service shut-offs and save energy:
• Customers who anticipate difficulty in paying their natural gas bills may call CenterPoint to develop a payment plan at (612) 372-4680 or (800) 729-6164 or visit the company's Web site at www.centerpointenergy.com/paybill.
• Join CenterPoint Energy's budget billing plan that spreads payments evenly throughout the year for a predictable, leveled payment each month that avoids high winter bill peaks.
• Schedule a low-cost energy audit. Information on ways to reduce energy use and lower energy bills may be found at www.centerpointenergy.com/energyaudit.
• Get rebates for installation of energy-saving equipment. CenterPoint Energy's package of energy saving programs for efficient natural gas equipment can lower energy use and operating costs for home and business owners. Visit www.centerpointenergy.com/rebates for more.
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