Several safeguards have been put in place across the country to prevent utility disconnects for non-payment during the Covid-19 pandemic. The most up to date list can be found at the Energy & Policy Institute’s website. Although this covers most of Louisiana, at least for 30 days, there are a handful of municipal utility providers across the state that have not implemented these protections, and we are calling on the Governor to take action.
If your utility provider is prohibited from disconnecting your service due to non-payment, this does not mean you will not have to pay for the service. Following this health crisis, we fully expect residents will be required to pay what they owe, and the Alliance strongly recommends that customers that have the means to keep current on their bills, do so. This is about ensuring safe and reliable service for all of Louisiana.
As our energy bills come in, and as we see them getting higher due to increasing temperatures, we know there are many of us who will likely need assistance that may never have needed it before. There are federally funded programs for utility bill assistance already in place, and we expect these programs to expand as the Federal Government determines what kind of economic aid may be available. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides funding to directly pay utility bills. In Louisiana it is managed by the Louisiana Housing Corporation and administered to those in need through various Community Action Partnership Agencies (CAP Agencies). New Orleans is serviced by Total Community Action. We strongly recommend you check these websites for the most up to date information.
Currently, households earning less than 60% of State Median Income can qualify for up to one LIHEAP heating benefit, one LIHEAP cooling benefit, and one ‘Crisis’ benefit, per year. However, this may change based on what kind of economic stimulus package passes on the federal level.
During this time of uncertainty, we urge everyone to familiarize yourself, and family, on what benefits are already available and how to access them. We also urge folks that have the means to stay current on utility bills, do so to help keep the lights on for everyone. Stay safe, stay healthy.