Cold snap spikes heating bills, Need for help

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The cold snap of the previous two weeks has ended, but the heating bills are just starting to hit mailboxes. During the two week cold snap, Dominion Virginia Power says people used 33% more energy than two weeks in a typical winter. That means higher power bills and, in this bad economy, more people needing help to pay them.

There's a growing stack of applications for heat bill assistance at the Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People, known as CapUp. Said President and CEO Thomas Wagstaff, "We've had a fairly decent increase. I'd say about 25% over last year and that was an increase over the prior year due to the economy."

It's a similar story at Dominion Virginia Power. Said Pam Kemper, Dominion's Director of Customer Billing Payment Services, "Certainly we're having more customers call us, looking for ways to help assist in paying their bills."

If you can't afford to pay a high electricity bill, you can ask Dominion for a few days' extension or a payment plan over a few months. Explained Kemper, "There's really no set qualifications. It depends on your paying history, have you had extensions or payment plans with us in the past, and how you managed those when you've had those previously."

If you've received a cancellation notice and exhausted other resources, you can apply for financial assistance to help pay the bill through Energy Share. Said Kemper, "It's going to be based on income levels. Are you unemployed, what's causing you to be in the situation that you're in today."

Worried a relative or someone you know can't pay? Third Party Notification will alert you before their heat is turned off so you can arrange for a payment to be made.

And to avoid getting big bills in the future, Budget Billing spreads your bills evenly over 12 months.

So explore your options. It can help you keep the heat on while the cold weather persists.

Said Wagstaff, "We've had people call with electric bills of $2,000 to $3,000. We can't do the whole thing, but we can start on that and help them find other resources to pay the rest of the bill.

Dominion customers can call 1-888-667-3000 for more information about any of these programs. This link offers advice to reduce your heating bills.