Utilities to lift disconnect moratorium next week
Indiana families are looking for ways to pay high winter heating bills.
The coldest winter in 30 years sent gas and electric bills soaring, increasing the number of customers in danger of being shut off. A moratorium is put on service disconnects during such brutal weather conditions but with winter winding down, utility companies have warned 20,000 customers that they could shut down service next week.
Citizens Energy sent disconnect notices to 4,700 customers - 28 percent more than a year ago. More than 14,000 IPL customers could lose their power - a six percent increase from 2013.
Denise Davis of Indianapolis said her energy bills doubled over the winter.
"You don't know if they are going to help you or not. Being a single person all by myself, I don't know if they are going to help me."
The Community Action heating assistance office is full of people applying for help. Some are so far behind, the organization's president fears they are beyond help to keep their gas and electric turned on.
Annette Riley of Indianapolis said her gas bill is the only bill she's behind on - but she's behind $938 since her husband left and she lost her job.
"I just gotta give them what I got and hopefully they will work with me," said Riley.
Disconnecting customers, utilities insist, is a last resort. To keep lights on and furnaces working, they steer delinquent customers to government assistance programs and offer budget and payment plans.
"If we see customers making a good faith effort and they are also paying some of the bills that are owed, we will keep their gas service on," said Sarah Holesapple with Citizens Energy and Water.
But customers who do nothing could start seeing their services cut as early as Monday when the utility disconnect moratorium expires.
Utilities say doing nothing is the worst thing to do. All gas and electric utilities operate with similar rules -- call them and work out a budget or repayment plan before your service is shut off.