CenterPoint Energy’s consumer advocate explains how to keep the heat on
Bev Lambkins, a 30-plus year employee of CenterPoint Energy who holds the title of Supervisor Agency Programs Consumer Advocate, has lifelong experience working closely with low-income residents, military veterans, and families in need. As fall slowly makes way for the cool of winter, Lambkins has been hard at work making sure customers she encounters are familiar with the energy assistance program.
“Our customers are important to us. We urge customers who anticipate having trouble paying their natural gas bill to contact us as soon as possible to setup a payment plan that is acceptable to both our customer and CenterPoint Energy. Customers should not wait until they receive a disconnect notice before exploring all the payment options available. There is always someone available to listen and help,” Lambkins reassured. “We don’t want any of our customers to be without heat during the winter.”
Residents should know there are funds available to help low-income households pay heating/energy bills through federally funded programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), CenterPoint Energy’s Gas
Affordability Program (GAP) and the Salvation Army’s HeatShare Program, as well as other assistance programs offered by local county agencies.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
LIHEAP is a federally funded program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In Minnesota, the Energy Assistance Program is administered by the Office of Energy Assistance Program within the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The program began on October 1, 2013 and runs through May 31, 2013. Eligible low-income households should request an application now in order to meet their energy needs.
CenterPoint Energy’s Gas Affordability Program (GAP)
CenterPoint Energy’s Gas Affordability Program helps lower income customers stay warm and pay their natural gas bills. “This unique program offers a monthly credit for current and past due natural gas bills, and also offers a fixed monthly bill for ongoing, future and current monthly energy bills,” added Lambkins. One of the key factors of this service is that CenterPoint Energy will credit customers’ account if the monthly payment that is owed for their current and past due gas charges is greater than six percent of a customer’s total annual household income. If a customer continues to make payments on their monthly bill, CenterPoint Energy will also give its Minnesota customers a credit towards any past due balance on their account, which will help people and those within our community get caught up quicker.
Salvation Army’s HeatShare Program
The HeatShare Program helps families in need by providing year-round emergency assistance for their heating and utility bills. HeatShare is a voluntary non-governmental program of The Salvation Army which was co-founded more than 30 years ago in partnership with CenterPoint Energy. “When you give to HeatShare, you are helping warm the lives of the elderly, disabled and others with nowhere else to turn. It is a last resort for those who have no other resources available to see them through the winter,” said Lambkins.
In addition to contributions from utility companies including CenterPoint Energy, our customers, neighbors and thousands of people across the state of Minnesota voluntarily contribute through one-time donations or by paying a little extra on their monthly utility bills. All funds that are donated, which are tax deductible, will go directly towards providing assistance to local community residents. The Salvation Army centers across the state accept applications to administer HeatShare funds.
“If interested applicants give us a call, a customer service representative will connect them with the agencies that administer these programs,” Lambkins explained. CenterPoint Energy customers can find out if they are eligible for payment assistance programs by calling 612-372-4727 (1-800-245-2377) to discuss details and to request an application.
Customers can also download a GAP application from the company’s website at www.CenterPointEnergy.com/GAPapp.
This information was provided by CenterPoint Energy.