Over 200,000 Iowans are behind on utility bills

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Over 200,000 Iowa residents are behind on their utility bills.

Iowa’s largest utility companies reported that thousands of households are behind on their bill payments, according to a report from Radio Iowa.

The Bureau of Energy Assistance administers the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which offers low income-earning Iowa residents’ protection from having their power shut off between November 1 and March 31.

The Iowa Utilities Board is reminding customers who are protected from energy service disconnection, that the protection expires on April 1, 2013. This leaves customers with unpaid bills subject to disconnection beginning April 2, 2013.

According to Jerry McKim, director of LIHEAP, if a resident gets their power shut off during the winter they are allowed to negotiate a payment plan.

“People do get shut off in the winter,” said McKim. “The numbers drop way off, but starting April 1, it comes on with a vengeance.”

McKim said a report by the state’s regulated utilities showed in February there were 1,254 involuntary disconnections.

“If you haven’t had a payment agreement that you’ve broken in the last 12 months, the utility shall, not might, shall offer you a minimum of 12 months to pay off the past due balance,” said McKim.

McKim also noted that while it is required by companies to work with customers, it is up to the homeowner to contact their utility company.