COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Missouri Public Service Commission's Cold Weather Rule will go into effect Wednesday for gas and electric utilities across Missouri.
Under the rule, natural gas and electric utilities are prohibited from disconnecting any heat-related services when the temperature is predicted to drop below 32 degrees during the following 24 hours. The rule does not negate the need for customers to pay their bill entirely, but rather provides payment options to help lower the cost of bills,.
The rule runs through March 31 every year and has been in place since 1977, according to a press release from the PSC.
According to a release from the PSC, the rule also:
- Provides more lenient payment terms permitting reconnection of service.
- Allows customers to budget payments over 12 months.
- Requires that customers be notified by mail 10 days before the date the utility intends to shut off service; an attempt be made to contact the customer within 96 hours before the shut off; an attempt be made to contact the customer right before the shut off; and that notice is left at the home when service has been shut off.
- Requires customers to be notified of possible financial help in paying the utility bill.
- Allows for the reconnection of service for less than the full amount owed.
Manager of Customer Advocacy for Ameren in Missouri Page Selby said Ameren offers multiple options for customers. Selby said it's important for people to reach out to the company sooner, rather than later.
"Sometimes you know we can't get them help immediately because there's some processing time for applications," Selby said.
Some options include the "Dollar More Program," which takes money from other Ameren customers, as well as Ameren and provides it to customers who need assistance with paying their bill. The "Keeping Current Program" also provides customers with a $90 credit on their account to help lower payments.
"It spreads out my payment regardless of my usage over 12 months," Selby said. "So that I don't have to, when I have a big bill next month because everybody's cranking on the heat tonight and the next several days then I don't have to pay it immediately."
According to an email from an Ameren spokesperson, some ways you can save money include:
- Lowering the heat to 68 degrees: You can save 5% for every degree you drop your thermostat between 60 to 70 degrees.
- Letting the sun in: Opening your curtains can allow the natural sun to warm your home. At night, keep them closed to keep the heat from escaping.
- Cleaning your air vents: Remove any blockages and replace air filters to allow air to move through your home easier.
- Avoid running hot water to thaw out food: Defrost your food ahead of time. Water heating makes up about 18% of your utility bill.
Selby also noted that if you are unable to pay your bill in full, Ameren also offers the option of you paying a down payment, but each case varies from customer to customer.
"I mean disconnection is always a last resort," Selby said. "Most of the time it's just because people don't reach out and ask for the help because there is help available. We're always happy to make some payment arrangements."