Harrisburg, PA – The Departments of Labor & Industry (L&I) and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) want Pennsylvanians to know there are utility related assistance programs available.
"This global pandemic is presenting a number of financial challenges to Pennsylvanians," said Acting L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier. "Today marks the official start of winter and the dangerously cold temperatures that can often accompany it. The arrival of the winter solstice is a timely reminder to our out-of-work residents that utility-related assistance and other local resource programs are available to help Pennsylvanians with basic needs."
The PUC emphasized that there are multiple layers of safeguards and assistance options for households who may be struggling with the health and financial impacts of COVID-19, including:
Additionally, the PUC continues to urge utilities to work even more closely with households and businesses:
- Exercising flexibility and leniency – When establishing payment arrangement plans for all consumers, consideration should be given to circumstances such as lost or reduced income, extended illness of a household member, or increased household size and accompanying expenses;
- Educating consumers – Information about conservation and ways to reduce energy usage should be made available to all consumers; and,
- Enhancing charitable support – Increasing corporate donations to and fundraising for utility hardship funds and other community-based programs can assist consumers who need help paying their utility bills.
"As we continue to grapple with the health and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that there are households across the state facing the uncertainty and stress of worrying about their utility bills, including some who may never have experienced problems before," noted Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chair Gladys Brown Dutrieuille. "We urge anyone in that situation to pick up the phone and call your public utility as soon as possible, to learn what options are available. And, if you have a family member, friend, or neighbor who you think may be having difficulties, encourage them to do the same.
Other state resources include human service programs, health services, emergency food assistance, school feeding programs and other public assistance. Find food assistance in your community, and actions the administration has taken to address food insecurity at agriculture.pa.gov/foodsecurity.
Applications for SNAP, Medicaid, LIHEAP, and other public assistance programs can be submitted online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Those who prefer to submit paper documentation can print from the website or request an application by phone at 1-800-692-7462 and mail it to their local County Assistance Office (CAO) or place it in a CAO's secure drop box, if available. You do not need to know your own eligibility in order to apply. While CAOs remain closed, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues. Clients should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their case files while CAOs are closed.
Pennsylvanians who need health insurance who do not qualify for Medicaid can explore coverage options through Pennie, the commonwealth's health insurance exchange. Pennsylvanians can learn more at www.pennie.com.
"We want to make sure all Pennsylvanians know how to get access to assistance programs during this stressful time, especially those who are coping with job loss due to the pandemic," noted Berrier. "This information will be a life-line to those that are struggling to pay their bills and meet basic day to day needs."
For more information on public assistance programs, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
For the latest pandemic-related information for individuals, families, businesses and schools, visit "Responding to COVID-19" on pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Sarah DeSantis, L&I – firstname.lastname@example.org
Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, PUC – email@example.com
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