Sometimes our customers experience financial hardships and need help paying their energy bills. These hardships can put customers in a tough situation where they have to choose between electricity and other basic human needs. This problem is not limited to just a few people. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2015, nearly one-third of U.S. households struggled to either pay their energy bills or maintain acceptable levels of heating and cooling in their homes.
AEP has several initiatives and resources to help customers manage these situations, including monthly payment plans and energy assistance grants and programs. We also offer programs and resources to help our customers lower their electric bills and reduce their energy consumption, such as energy efficiency programs, rebates and incentives. Learn more about some of the many energy assistance programs offered across AEP’s service territory:
The funding available to support our energy assistance programs comes from a variety of sources, including the government, social service agencies and even other customers. Income guidelines determine eligibility. The funding level of different programs can fluctuate from year to year based on several factors, including improvements in the economy that lessen demand for aid, increased or decreased government funding and other contributions or grants awarded to support these programs.
Government-sponsored energy assistance programs provided approximately $66.4 million in federal and private energy assistance in 2018. We also received more than 24,800 pledges totaling more than $5.9 million in energy assistance from our self-serve agency websites.
The U.S. federal government shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019 caused financial hardships for many of our government-employed customers. In response, we empowered our customer service agents to work in every way possible to help those impacted by the government shutdown.
In 2018, Kentucky Power revamped its former Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and nearly doubled the number of low-income families who can be served. An order from the Kentucky Public Service Commission increased customer contributions to the HEAP program from 15 cents to 30 cents a month. In addition, Kentucky Power matched the customer contributions dollar for dollar with shareholder funds.
Together, the programs generated nearly $1 million in 2018 to provide heating and cooling assistance to about 2,500 customers in the region. Program funds are distributed to customers who meet income requirements set by community action agencies. Additionally, Kentucky Power offers an opportunity for customers to contribute to the energy assistance program through their bills.
In 2018, Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) set up a Neighbor to Neighbor program to help qualified customers with their energy bills. The program provides an option for customers to contribute to the program simply by checking a box on their bill and specifying the amount they want to contribute above their bill amount. The contribution is tax-deductible. To qualify for aid, customers must meet the guidelines of the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP) and other eligibility standards.
I&M also provided $400,000 to the Indiana Community Action Association (IN-CAA) to help families pay their energy bills and use energy more efficiently. IN-CAA is a nonprofit comprised of Indiana’s 22 community action agencies. I&M’s assistance stemmed from discussions with these agencies as part of the company’s Building the Future regulatory rate review, and was approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
In addition to federal and private energy assistance, the AEP Foundation contributes financial support to help our customers meet basic needs including food and shelter. In early 2018, the AEP Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to assist low-income residents in Eastern Kentucky. The grant to the Christian Appalachian Project helped fund the nonprofit’s Elder Housing and Family Housing programs. Both programs make home repairs or install weatherization measures for families and individuals who cannot afford repairs. The need is so great in this region that the Christian Appalachian Project has a waitlist of families in need.