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Tough Winter Yields Tough Bills

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Utility companies know the winter can be tough on the wallet, but for people who fall behind on their payments, just coming forward goes a long way.

The bottom line is for people above 150% of the Federal Poverty Level, utility companies arent allowed to shut off their gas and electric between the November 1 and April 1.

"What the moratorium does is it gives some stability and consistency to customers who might have trouble paying their bills, said Alliant Energy Spokesperson Justin Foss.

"It just allows people to pay their other bills that are getting behind if they're not having to pay the electric bill, said Linn County Rural Electric Coop Association Consumer Services Supervisor Debra Curtis.

Those bills are higher this year by about 20% according to Alliant Energy. Across the state, its been 18% colder this winter compared to last winter and Iowans have gone through 27% more natural gas, and thats just through February.

"Over the winter months, we won't shut you off so that your family can stay safe with enough heat, but come spring, you need to pay up, said Foss.

For people who cant just write a big check to cover the balance, the energy companies themselves are willing to work with customers as long as they raise their hand.

"We will divide what they owe up over at least a 12-month period of time and enter a payment arrangement with them, said Curtis.

Outside those companies is HACAP, which can help people who qualify with actual funds for the utility bills. Energy Companies say cutting people off is the absolute last step, since it takes a lot of time and resources to individually disconnect each home.

"But we understand that at the end of the day, if a customer is not going to pay their bill, we need to disconnect them so that other customers aren't forced to pay all of their costs, said Foss.

Energy companies say just come forward and theyll find a way to help. For those who apply, HACAP is accepting applications for financial assistance through the end of April.
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