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What is the “Winter Disconnect” period?
Special payment arrangements available for customers of electric and natural gas utilities during the Winter months
It is the Commission's policy that during the winter months, when severe weather conditions can pose a threat to health and safety, residential customers of electric and gas utilities should not be disconnected because of their inability to pay the entire amount owed by the due date of a bill.
During the period November 15 through April 15, customers who cannot pay their utility bill because of reasons that may cause their households to be deprived of food, medicine, heat or some other necessity can declare eligibility for a Special Payment Arrangement. Customers whose income does not exceed 150% of federal poverty guidelines or who are eligible to participate in one of the following programs may qualify for a Special Payment Arrangement:
A Special Payment Arrangement can be an arrangement that allows the customer to pay less than the amount of each current bill during the winter months. At the time of the March billing, the utility adds the estimated amount of bills from April through September to the March account balance and divides by 7. The result is the amount the customer will pay in 7 equal monthly installments by the billing dates from April through October. This arrangement requires that the customer pay the account balance plus all future bills through and including the September bill by November 1.
A Special Payment Arrangement can also be an arrangement that allows the customer to pay a levelized amount each month. This arrangement is similar to a budget arrangement in that the account balance owed at the time the arrangement is established is added to estimated bills through the following September. The total of these figures is divided by the number of monthly payments that will be made to bring the account current by November 1.
There are two benefits to these Special Payment Arrangements. First, the customer is assured that payments during the winter months will be affordable and the danger of winter disconnection is avoided. Second, as long as the customer makes and keeps a Special Payment Arrangement, the utility is prohibited from assessing late payment charges on the overdue amount.
If you have any questions regarding options for avoiding the threat of winter disconnection of your electric or natural gas service, please call the Maine Public Utilities Commission's Consumer Assistance Hotline at (800) 452-4699 or (207) 287‑1597. You can also reach the Maine PUC at (800) 437-1220 (TTY Relay), (207) 287-1039 (fax), or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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