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Most Triangle residents on average pay monthly utility bills that are higher than the national average, according to data from DoxoINSIGHTS.

Sandra McCullen for The News & Observer

Did you receive a higher-than-normal utility bill recently?

If you’re struggling to pay your energy and electric bills — either because of extreme weather, like a cold snap, or any other circumstance — there are several resources that can provide assistance, both in the short and long term.

If you’re in a position to help people who are facing high electric bills or are unable to pay their bills, there are also resources and programs that allow you to pay it forward and assist others.

We’ve compiled several examples of these resources in North Carolina.

Duke Energy bill assistance programs

Duke Energy, which provides power to much of North Carolina, offers several bill assistance programs for customers.

Notes: If you receive power from a company other than Duke, such as an electric cooperative or a municipality, try checking with that company to see if they offer similar programs.

Duke’s Share the Light Fund supports individuals and families who are struggling to pay their energy bills by offering financial assistance. Duke “works with agencies to distribute funds to qualifying customers in order to pay energy bills, deposits and reconnection/connection charges.”

To qualify for assistance from the fund, you must be a Duke Energy now Duke Energy Progress residential customer and have a past-due balance, unpaid deposit for utility service or unpaid reconnection charge.

To see if you qualify for assistance, Duke Energy Progress customers can contact the company’s Careline by phone at 800-662-7030. Duke Energy customers can see a list of assisting agencies in their county, including contact information, online at duke-energy.com/home/billing/special-assistance/share-the-light.

The Share the Light Fund also accepts donations to support the fund. Funds are matched by the Duke Energy Foundation, up to $500,000.

Duke customers can donate on a one-time or recurring basis, either online or by mail when they pay their bills. Donations are also accepted by check or money order.

Learn more about how to donate to the fund at duke-energy.com/home/billing/special-assistance/share-the-light.

If you need a few more days to pay your bill than the listed due date, Duke Energy offers a two extension dates option.

“This plan provides flexibility for customers who know ahead of time that they will not be able to pay their bill by the due date,” Duke says. “Due Date Extension is a good option for customers that need additional time to settle their invoice, without having to pay late fees.”

Using this payment option, customers can extend the due date of their bill up to 10 days. The option can be used twice in a rolling 12-month period, and is not open to customers who are currently on a payment installment plan.

To qualify for a due date extension, the customer must have an active account with Duke Energy and must not have an overdue balance or be scheduled for disconnection of services.

Learn more about Duke’s due date extension program, including how to sign up, at duke-energy.com/home/billing/special-assistance/payment-arrangements.

If you’re facing a bill for a large — or larger-than-normal — sum, Duke offers an installment plan program that allows you to pay the large amount in smaller portions over time.

Installment plans are available for past due balances, move-in deposits and final bills.

When customers are on an installment plan, the smaller payment installments of the larger sum are billed each month in addition to your normal, current bill. The installment plan will have set dates and amounts of payment specified, and you must agree and commit to those before starting the plan.

Depending on the condition of your account, you may be required to pay a down payment to begin an installment plan.

Notes: If you miss a payment on your installment plan, you will be taken off the plan. “The account will then fall within the normal billing and payment timeline and may be subject to disconnection without payment,” Duke says.

Learn more about Duke’s installment plan program at duke-energy.com/home/billing/special-assistance/payment-arrangements.

If your electricity is at risk of being disconnected due to a past-due balance, Duke offers a disconnect date extension option that allows up to two extra weeks for you to pay your bill and avoid a shutoff.

To qualify for the program, your account must be active and you must not currently be on a payment installment program.

To learn more about the disconnect date extension program, visit duke-energy.com/home/billing/special-assistance/payment-arrangements.

LIEAP in North Carolina

The Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) is a federally funded program that provides financial assistance to help eligible recipients pay their energy and heating bills.

Within set parametersstates administer the program as they see fit. In North Carolinathe program is administered by the state Division of Social Services, and allows for an annual one-time payment towards households’ heating expenses.

To be eligible for assistance through LIEAP in North Carolina, households must meet these criteria:

  • Have at least one person who meets the eligibility criteria.

  • Meet an income test.

  • Have reserves at or below $2,250.

  • Be responsible for its heating costs.

To receive assistance through LIEAP, you must apply.

The application is open from Dec. 1-31 for households that include a person age 60 or older or an individual receiving disability benefits and services through the NC Division of Aging and Adult Services.

All other households may apply from Jan. 1-March 31, or until funds run out.

For more information on how to apply for LIEAP, visit ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/energy-assistance/low-income-energy-assistance-lieap or contact your local Department of Social Services.

NC utility winter moratorium

If you are unable to pay your utility bill, you may not face immediate disconnection of service, depending on several factors, including the time of year and your age.

Under rules set by the North Carolina Utilities Commissionwhich regulates public utilities in the state, utilities are not allowed to disconnect service for certain households during a specific time of year, even for lack of payment.

From Nov. 1 to March 31 each year, utilities regulated by the commission cannot shut off service to North Carolina households that meet all of the following criteria:

Includes someone who is disabled or age 65 or older;

Are unable to pay their bill under an installment plan;

And are certified by a local social services agency as eligible to receive assistance under an energy assistance program.

For more information about the annual moratorium and other rules about service termination, visit the NC Department of Justice website at ncdoj.gov/protecting-consumers/energy-and-utilities/termination-of-utility-service.

Find more resources at NC211.org

To find more utility and emergency assistance programs near you, try using NC 211 — an information and referral service operated by the United Way of North Carolina that connects people with community resources for various needs.

“NC 211 maintains a robust database with information on thousands of programs and services in North Carolina,” the NC 211 website says. “We refer callers to organizations in their local community best equipped to address their specific health and human services needs including food, shelter, energy assistance, housing, parenting resources, healthcare, substance abuse, as well as specific resources for older adults and for persons with disabilities, and much more.”

To access NC211, visit NC211.org and search for resources that match your needs, or dial 2-1-1 on your phone to be connected with a trained specialist who will navigate the database for you.

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Korie Dean is a reporter on The News & Observer’s service journalism team. She is a graduate of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC-Chapel Hill and a lifelong North Carolinian.

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