Feb 26, 2015

A new report by Iowa’s largest utility companies shows hundreds of households are behind on paying their energy bills.  A federal program called LIHEAP provides protection from having the power shut off between November 1st and March 31st. Iowa’s Director Jerry McKim says he’s concerned about those who are not part of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, but there is protection.

“The law says if you haven’t had a payment agreement that you broke in the last 12 months, the utility must, not might, offer you a minimum of 12 months to pay off your past due balance.”

The Utilities Board report shows more than one thousand customers were involuntarily disconnected in January.

In addition, the report reveals more than $39 million in past due bills. While this is 6.5% less compared to last January, the first three months of 2014 were the highest monthly amounts past due ever reported.

McKim says there’s help from the customer service office of the Iowa Utilities Board.

“They’re the state agency who has authority over every utility in the state for electric and gas on disconnection procedures and payment rules so that’s where you go if you feel you’re not being treated fairly.”

McKim says state law requires utility companies to take into account household income when setting up a 12 month repayment plan.

Iowa Public Radio news intern Maddison Jansen contributed to this post.