ComEd announces it has dedicated $10 million in assistance funds for 2014 to help customers facing financial hardship pay their electric bill. In addition, the company is offering flexible budget billing and deferred payment options to assist customers receiving higher than normal bills in light of the severe cold weather blanketing northern Illinois.
'Customers are using more energy than usual to stay warm during this exceptionally brutal winter weather, and we realize they may need additional assistance to help them manage their higher electric bills,' said Val Jensen, senior vice president of Customer Operations, ComEd. 'We want to make sure that customers facing financial hardship and higher bills know there is support available from ComEd to help them get through these times.'
This January was one of the coldest in ComEd's service territory in more than 50 years, and, as a result, electric service usage for the average residential customer increased an estimated 6 percent or more compared to a typical January. ComEd offers several options to aid customers facing the higher energy costs associated with this extreme winter weather.
Flexible billing and payment options
Flexible Budget Billing Option - Through April 1, customers selecting the Budget Billing program will have the option to begin the program to include their current month's bill. Customers on this plan pay a pre-arranged amount each month based on their energy use during the prior 12-month budget cycle. Traditionally, the budget plan would begin with a customer's next bill. This option will generally mean customers will be paying a monthly amount lower than what is owed on their current bill.
Flexible Deferred Payment Agreement Option (DPA) - Through April 1, customers with an outstanding balance will be offered the option of establishing a DPA, which allows customers to make installment payments toward their bill. The option to establish a new deferred payment plan extends to customers currently on an active DPA as well as to those customers who, as a result of a recent default, were previously not eligible for the installment plan.
Customer Assistance Programs
To assist customers receiving higher than normal bills this season, ComEd is adjusting the eligibility requirements for its financial assistance programs for eligible residents including seniors, veterans, and activated members of the armed services who are ComEd customers.
Residential Special Hardship Program - This initiative is intended to supplement established state-sponsored programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Eligible ComEd residential customers experiencing a hardship and who are not Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) participants can receive a grant of up to $1,500 toward their electricity bill. Grant amounts may vary. Through April 1, 2014, income eligible customers are NOT required to provide additional proof of hardship such as job loss, documented illness or disability hardship.
Non-Profit Assistance Programs - ComEd extended this program to include all non-profit organizations, including faith-based organizations. This program typically provides a one-time variable grant of up to $2,000 for 501 (c)(3) non-profit organizations that are experiencing a hardship. However, effective immediately, organizations that HAVE NOT received a grant within the last two years (2011-2013) are eligible to apply for assistance.
CHAMP (ComEd Helps Activated/Veteran Military Personnel) - This program provides bill-payment assistance to deployed members of the military and veterans who have fallen behind on their bill and who reside within ComEd's northern Illinois service territory. CHAMP offers a package of benefits, including bill payment assistance of up to $1,000 while funds are available, a deferred payment plan, extended payment due dates, exemption from late charges, deposit reduction and budget payment plans. Applicants were previously required to serve at least two years and be honorably discharged. Effective immediately customers can serve any length of time, be honorably discharged and qualify for benefits.
This is the third consecutive year ComEd is offering $10 million in annual assistance funds, which are part of a five-year, $50 million commitment. Last year, nearly 28,000 customers were able to avoid disconnection through this offering. In addition, ComEd will launch a series of advertisements in March to inform customers of the assistance and encourage them to apply.
To apply for the Residential Special Hardship grant, or the State sponsored assistance programs customers should visit a local LIHEAP Agency. For more information on or to enroll in any of ComEd's assistance programs, call 1-888-806-CARE (2273) or visit ComEd.Com/CARE for more information.
In addition, some ComEd customers have contracted with Retail Electric Suppliers (RES) and are seeing an increase in their energy costs due to the increased demand in January and February. While ComEd delivers electricity to all customers, the company is the source or supplier of the actual energy to a much smaller percentage of customers. When ComEd is the actual supplier it passes the actual energy costs on to customers with no mark-up. ComEd does not market its supply service and is neutral on a customer's choice of suppliers. Nevertheless, ComEd wants to provide assistance and support to its customers experiencing higher electric costs as a result of the recent polar vortex. Customers can learn more about their bill, including a breakdown of charges and estimated meter readings by visiting ComEd.com, click on the customer service tab, then billing and payment.
Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), the nation's leading competitive energy provider, with approximately 6.6 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state's population.