Flipping on a light switch or turning up the thermostat are things that most people take for granted. Having light and heat on a cold winter’s night provides comfort and safety for families everywhere. But, what if you didn’t have the option of keeping your lights and heat on because you couldn’t pay your bills?
The Federal Reserve reported that in 2014, 47% of people responding to their financial wellness survey said they could not cover an emergency expense costing $400 or more, or they would have to cover it by selling something or borrowing money. Many times, an emergency expense costs much more that $400. The costs of unexpected expenses can lead to falling behind in payments for normal monthly bills, like utilities.
What should you do if you find yourself facing a utility shut-off situation?
- Call your utility company to explain the situation to see if they will set up a payment plan for you
- Ask if your utility company offers any rate discount plans in which you can enroll
- Dial 2-1-1 on your phone or visit 211.org for utility payment assistance in your area.
- Call LIHEAP – a federal program that provides assistance to eligible low-income households to manage and meet their immediate home heating and/or cooling needs.
If you work in a bookstore, call Binc or visit http://www.bincfoundation.org to see if you qualify for a financial assistance grant. Binc provides financial assistance grants to booksellers who are being threatened with utility shut-off.
We were robbing Peter to pay Paul and for some time were able to exist this way. However, it hit a point where we were not able to do it any longer and were looking at our utilities being cut off and not being able to make rent. Binc helped us with both of those and provided much needed breathing space. We can use the extra time to put some things in place so that we are not in this situation hopefully again.”
– Binc grant recipient from Arizona
In 2014, Binc helped 4 families keep their lights and heat on. Utility Shut-Off Prevention grants totaled $3,104 and are expected to continue at this level in 2015. As of June of 2015, Binc has already supplied 3 Utility Shut-Off Prevention grants totaling $2,455 for booksellers and their families.
Utility assistance may be provided to a bookseller only when a good faith effort has been made to make payment on the outstanding bills, a shut-off notice has been issued and the household may lose an essential utility (gas, heating oil or electric service only). Binc understands that quick action is needed to prevent a utility shut-off. We strive to review bookseller requests confidentially and expediently.
Qualifications for providing or maintaining essential utility service:
- Financial assistance will only cover the amount needed to prevent shut-off.
- Eligibility and need will be based on the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) guidelines set by the U.S. government.
- Applicant must have made a good faith effort to stay current on the utility bill
Additional documents required for Utility Shut-off
- Official utility shut-off notice (not a past due notice)
- Most current utility bill statement
Please contact Binc at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to get more information on how to apply.