State utility regulators are warning that Iowans who still owe unpaid electric or natural gas bills for home heating and have not made payment arrangements could have their utilities disconnected after April 1.
Customers certified for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and associated Home Weatherization Program, are protected from disconnection during Iowa’s annual winter disconnection moratorium. The latter runs from Nov. 1 through April 1.
The Iowa Utilities Board on Friday said several extreme cold spells has resulted in higher heating costs and near-record levels of past due utility bill debt for residential customers in Iowa. Of the 1.85 million electric or natural gas accounts in Iowa, 243,403 were past due in February, up 4.1 percent from 233,814 accounts past due in February 2013.
Disconnection notices were issued to 98,597 customers in February, up 15.21 percent from 88,582 notices issued in the same month last year. A total of 412 customers had their electricity or natural gas reconnected in February, down 51.8 percent from 852 reconnections in the same month of 2013.
February is the most recent month for which past due account data is available.
The Iowa Utilities Board suggests that Iowans unable to pay their utility bills work very closely with local utilities and Community Action Agencies (CAAs) to avoid service disconnections. LIHEAP funds are limited, but applications are still being accepted on a first come, first served basis by Iowa’s Community Action Agencies through April 30.
All customers, including those not qualifying for LIHEAP or weatherization assistance, may be eligible to enter into a reasonable payment agreement with their utilities to pay accumulated debt over time and to maintain utility service.The Iowa Utilities Board's customer service staff will assist residents with issues that are not resolved directly with their utility. The toll free phone number is (877) 565-4450.