More Americans are having trouble paying their utility bills, according to the Wall Street Journal. And some consumer advocates and regulators are growing concerned about the growing number of homes that have had their utilities shut off because of unpaid bills—especially because more people may be impacted as the economy worsens.
Throughout the country utilities have shut off more delinquent customers than last year. The article states:
In Pennsylvania, PPL Corp. increased shutoffs by 78% in the first three quarters of the year compared with the same period a year earlier. Shutoffs at electric utilities throughout the state increased by 20% in that period… In Memphis, Tenn., the city-owned utility that supplies electricity, natural gas and water to residents cut off 38% more people in the first eight months of the year, or 69,743 electric accounts, versus the same period in 2007.
If you find yourself in this boat and are facing a utility shutoff, you may be able to get help through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This federally funded program helps low-income households with their energy bills. LIHEAP may also be able to help you with weatherization and energy-related home repairs.
The program is targeted at low-income folks but eligibility rules have been expanded to allow people with higher incomes to qualify. That’s because state regulators say more people with higher incomes are having their power shut off. “We’re seeing an uptick in middle-class people who have never been in this situation before,” Eric Hartsfield, director of the customer-service division of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, told the Wall Street Journal.
It’s especially important that people with health issues, the elderly, and small children don’t go without heat for too long. Also, using stoves, portable heaters, and grills is dangerous and should be avoided, especially because carbon monoxide poisoning can result.
The New York Times recently reported on the results of the quarterly Federal Reserve bank study that takes a look at current lending practices.
“Besides the nearly 60 percent of banks tightening standards on credit card debt, 65 percent said they had tightened lending standards for other types of consumer loans over the last three months.
About 20 percent of the domestic banks reported cutting limits for existing credit card accounts held by prime, or strong credit, customers. Credit card lenders have been reducing customers’ credit lines, raising interest rates or even closing accounts as they tighten the reins to reduce their risk.”
This is not good news for those consumers looking for options to reduce or eliminate their consumer debt through a debt consolidation loan.
Chris Rocks is the Regional Director of the National Credit Federation (NCF). NCF is a nationwide membership-based organization that assists consumers recovering from a financial difficulty and those who need a significant increase in their credit score.
Chris began his financial services career as a Financial Advisor helping young families with risk management and asset accumulation strategies. It was during that time that Chris realized that many of these young families also needed someone to guide their choices with regards to debt management.
He made the transition into the mortgage industry where he first worked as a loan originator and later the Vice President of a small mortgage company. As Chris came across clients who had suffered through financial challenges and saw the difficulty they had in re-entering our credit driven economy, he discovered there was a real opportunity to leverage his unique background and help others.
He can be contacted by visiting his personal site, GoodCreditLiving.com.
Francine L. Huff is the Publisher and Editorial Director of Super Savvy Publishing, LLC, which provides editorial and publishing services. She is a gifted author, freelance journalist, and motivational speaker who has entertained and motivated a variety of audiences through workshops, panels and keynote addresses. Francine is the author of The 25-Day Money Makeover for Women, which has inspired and motivated many readers to rein in poor financial habits, become good stewards over their money and work toward a debt-free life. She has appeared on a variety of TV and radio shows. Francine previously worked for the Wall Street Journal, where she was the spot news bureau chief, a news editor and a copy editor. She has interviewed a variety of financial professionals about financial issues and strives to present information about managing money in an easy-to-understand format that is accessible to people of all backgrounds and income levels.
Karen Lawson is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience working in mortgage banking and loan servicing. She holds BA and MA degrees in English from the University of Nevada, Reno. She enjoys writing informative articles about debt management and personal finance.