Deadline extended for Ohio energy assistance program

COLUMBUS (AP) — The long, cold winter has been a drain on many household budgets in Ohio, so the state is extending the deadline for lower-income people to apply for heating assistance.

Nearly 134,000 customers have received $34 million in help with heating bills through Ohio’s Home Energy Assistance Winter Crisis Program. Because of the severity of the winter, the program has extended the deadline to apply to April 15. Typically, it’s March 31.

Officials say they are seeing lots of people who had never before sought heating assistance. They say disconnects can usually be stopped by enrolling people in one or more energy-assistance programs.

The Winter Crisis Program offers a one-time payment of up to $175 for families at or below 175 percent of the poverty level. The Percentage of Income Payment Plan, which is available year-round, helps make payments affordable and includes opportunity for debt forgiveness.

Columbia Gas disconnect notices increased to 33,000 statewide from November through February — compared with about 32,000 last winter, company spokesman Steve Jablonski said.

The frigid weather, however, appears to have staved off the actual disconnects because shutoffs don’t take place when the forecast calls for temperatures of 20 or below, Jablonski said.

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