Chapter 4: Financial Assistance
Section 10: Utility Assistance
Each electric and gas utility must offer its residential customers the option of being billed on an "average monthly payment plan" which allows the consumer to pay the same amount each month, thus avoiding unexpectedly high bills which may be difficult to pay. [Oklahoma Corporation Commission Rule 165:35-19-31 and 165:45-11-4 (b6)]
Lifeline is a federal program that lowers the monthly cost of phone and internet. Eligible customers will get up to $9.25 toward their bill. You can only use Lifeline for either phone or internet, but not both. To get Lifeline, find a company near you on the website.
This provision postpones electric or gas service disconnection due to failure to pay the bill. When a residential customer has applied for and is awaiting financial assistance, including Social Security or SSI, from a federal, state or local social service agency, and the utility has initiated written notice of disconnection, it shall delay disconnection of service for a period of at least 20 days from the date such notice was either delivered or mailed to the residential customer, provided:
- The reason for disconnection is nonpayment of the utility bill.
- The consumer has notified the utility that he or she has applied for and is awaiting financial assistance.
- Verification from the involved agency must be provided in the form required by the utility.
- If the expected financial assistance is less than is owed by the customer, the utility may require the customer to enter into a deferred payment agreement.
- A utility is not required to furnish service to a person unless there is a reasonable expectation of payment except where other rules of the commission apply.
[Oklahoma Corporation Commission Rule 165:35-21-10 (d) and 165:45-11-14 (d)]
A life-threatening situation is defined as one where the consumer or other permanent resident of the household is dependent upon equipment that is prescribed by a doctor, operated on electricity or gas and is necessary to sustain the person's life. Examples of life-sustaining equipment would be kidney dialysis machines, oxygen concentrators, cardiac monitors, and in some cases heating and air conditioning when prescribed by a licensed medical doctor. If battery back-up for the life-sustaining equipment is normally available, then it is not considered a life-threatening situation. Corporation Commission rules specifically list some items that are not considered life-sustaining equipment. They include stoves, hot water heaters, refrigerators, nebulizers that are battery or hand driven or "self-contained," battery driven sleep apnea monitors or battery driven cardiac monitors.
An electric utility must suspend disconnection of service or reconnect service if the customer notifies the utility that disconnection of service will cause a life-threatening situation for the customer or other permanent resident of the household. The customer must obtain medical verification of the life-threatening condition and provide this to the utility (on a form required by the utility) within 30 days from the customer's notification to the utility that the life-threatening situation exists.
This provision does not require electric or gas companies to maintain utility service indefinitely to a customer who does not pay the bill, even though a life-threatening situation may exist. The utility is only required to extend such service for 30 days from the notification of the life-threatening situation. If payment or payment agreement is not made by then, cutoff can occur. A customer can apply for one additional 30-day grace period before the first 30 days has ended.
The life-threatening situation provision does not relieve a customer of the obligation to pay the electric or gas bill in full or make arrangements for time payments.
Any false information a customer provides in order to prevent service disconnection under this provision is grounds for disconnection.
[Oklahoma Corporation Commission Rule 165:35-21-10 (f) and 165:45-11-14 (f)]
Lifeline is a federal program that lowers the monthly cost of phone and internet. Eligible customers will get up to $9.25 toward their bill. Lifeline can only be used for either phone or internet, but not both.
Check the website for more details.
Many people need help paying bills and debt in today?s challenging economy. Families need help so that they do not have to decide between paying their mortgage, credit card debt, food, rent, utility, or medical bills.
Find information on assistance programs, charity organizations, and other resources that will provide you with help paying your bills, mortgage and debt, show you how to save money, as well as provide some tips and ways to pay bills when money is tight. Many American families are struggling under an increasing number of bills, debts, and financial obligations. When you and your family are experiencing this stress, you need to reevaluate the situation, set priorities, and look for assistance.
Elderly and disabled electric and gas utility customers can advance notify a utility that they want special notification if disconnection of service is imminent. The procedure requires the utility to both call and send written notice to the Corporation Commission's Consumer Services Division five days before an elderly or handicapped customer's service will be cut off due to nonpayment. The Consumer Services Division can then request an additional five day delay before service is cut off.
[Oklahoma Corporation Commission Rule 165:35-21-11 and 165:45-11-13]
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a Federally funded program that provides financial assistance to approximately 182,000 Oklahoma low-income households each year to help them meeting the cost of home energy. All LIHEAP assistances are subject to available funding by the Federal government.