JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
A statewide rule that protects utility customers from disconnection during the winter months went into effect on Tuesday.
The Missouri Public Service Commission's cold weather rule stops a utility provider from disconnecting the heat if the temperature outside is below 32 degrees the day prior to disconnection.
Under the rule, utility providers must notify customers via the mail 10 days before the services are shut off. Utility companies must also give customers a 96-hour notice, another notification right before utilities are shut off and a notice must be left at the home once services are ended.
The cold weather rule requires companies to share possible financial help with customers about paying their utility bills. In some cases, customers can reconnect to services for less than the amount owed on their bill.
Customers can also work with the utility provider to budget payments over 12 months.
For more information about the rule, visit the Missouri Public Services Commission website or call the hotline at 800-392-4211.
Customers can get more information about their natural gas provider or electric company and local community action agency.
The commission's cold weather rule will remain in effect through Friday, March 31, 2023.
At the same time as the cold weather rule, natural gas prices are rising again for Ameren Missouri customers. Customers will pay 2 cents per hundred cubic feet more based on what they use for things like heat beginning Tuesday.
Ameren Missouri said on Tuesday although natural gas prices are rising, there are resources to help people affected, especially as people continue to battle rising inflation.
"On top of everything else, it's like I have to pay for my school and then rent and then now extra utilities and then food so it's just...with climbing prices it's just a lot of frustration going on," said Columbia resident John Hogan.
Page Selby, manager of customer advocacy at Ameren Missouri, said the department likes to steer people to its energy assistance program which provides solutions for people struggling to make a payment. Selby says even people who have accumulated a balance over the summer, can use their clean slate program to get rid of that balance.
"All they have to do is put 10% down, we've raised the income threshold on that," Selby said. "So for example a family of four can make up to $79,500 and qualify for our clean slate program which wipes out their past due balance so that they can start fresh."
And Ameren also has the Keeping Current program, which is a program that reduces past-due balances. It also provides a credit every month on a customer's bill of up to $90 a month for two years.
Northeast Community Action Corporation is also offering assistance at this time. The corporation covers 12 Missouri counties and is offering low-income house energy assistance program. This program offers a one-time payment to income-qualifying households depending on the type of utility they use.
The maximum benefit is $990 for propane-heated homes, $652 for natural gas, $636 for electricity and $438 for wood.
NECAC is accepting utility assistance applications online or in person at its service centers. The monthly income limit for a one-person household is $2,370. For a four-person residence, it’s $4,558. Additional amounts are available upon request.