Utilities & Internet

Headline:

Many residents are facing a steep increase in their residential heating and electricity bills this winter due to global conflict, inflation, and high demand.

Last-reviewed: 9am, Sept. 22, 2022

Key Resources:

Home Energy Utilities

The Basics

  • Many residents, including National Grid customers, are facing a steep increase in their residential heating and electricity bills this winter.  
  • MA residents can apply for help paying their utility costs. Use this tool to find the appropriate regional agency and view income limits for eligibility by region based on household size. Alternatively, call 2-1-1 for more information.

The Breakdown

  • With increasing electric rates, the Attorney General’s office launched an education campaign to inform people about programs available to help reduce energy usage and lower utility bills. Find more information here.
  • National Grid revealed that it plans to more than double its base electricity rates in Massachusetts beginning November 1, so that the average customer will see their monthly electric bill increase 64% over last winter. Monthly heating bills are also expected to be about $50 higher than last winter.
  • MA residents may want to call their local Community Assistance Program (CAP) to apply for fuel assistance (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or “LIHEAP” funds) to help pay utility bills.
    • At least one member of a household must have lawful immigration status for the household to be eligible for fuel assistance.
    • Residents can also contact their utility company to see if they are eligible for a payment plan or Arrearage Management Program (AMP).
    • The deadline to file an application for assistance is May 13, 2023.
  • Once utility customers are approved for fuel assistance, they will be eligible for a low-income discount (LID). Some gas and electric companies offer the discount retroactive to 11/1/2020. Importantly, utility customers cannot request the retroactive LID themselves; an advocate or representative must call the utility company’s customer service line on their behalf to make this request! Retroactive discounts are also at the utility company’s discretion – they are not a legal right. 
  • Utility customers who are on the low-income discounted rate are eligible to have varying amounts of debt forgiven if they pay 12 current monthly bills. Any low-income customer is eligible to enroll or re-enroll in an Arrearage Management Plan (AMP) program. Information is available directly from utility companies. Local CAP Agencies may be able to help with AMP enrollment questions.
  • A Massachusetts household with income up to 60% of area median income qualifies as having “financial hardship” and is eligible for shut-off protection. Find information about paying your utility bills here.
  • Serious or chronic illness protection may be available for some residents facing shut-off with verification from an authorized healthcare provider and verification of financial hardship.
  • Limited income households may want to contact The Good Neighbor Energy Fund operated by local Salvation Army offices: 1-800-334-3047 or 1-800-262-1320.
  • Eversource and the Attorney General’s Office offer guidance for customers who may be behind on their bill with respect to payment plans and other ways to reduce their energy use and bills.
  • Eversource and National Grid prepared a webinar with information about discount rates, grants, payments, and other offers.
  • The Joe-4-Oil Heat Program offers eligible households a one-time delivery per heating season of 100 gallons of home heating oil at no charge. To apply for assistance, call 877-563-4645.

The Bottom Line

  • MA residents can contact their regional agency or local fuel assistance organization to see if they are eligible for fuel assistance to help cover utility payments.
  • Learn more about payment programs and utility discounts here.
  • Households facing disconnections of utility service should be prepared to assert utility shut-off protection verifications (financial hardship + age or illness).
  • Action alert: In case of any threats, but especially if municipal electric and gas companies threaten service disconnection, please inform the fuel program at the neighborhood CAP Agency and ask them to alert the National Consumer Law Center, which is tracking this concern.

Telephone & Internet

  • When cell phone carriers switch to 5G, they will stop service to phones, medical devices, and security systems that run only on 3G. People with 3G phones may not be able to make calls including emergency calls to 911 or the new 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. (4G phones are expected to function for years to come.) For additional information about the timeline and how to upgrade affected devices, visit the FCC website.
  • The Emergency Broadband Benefit program (EBB) is now the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Twenty leading internet providers will offer ACP-eligible households a high-speed internet plan for no more than $30/month and a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. Eligible families who use their ACP benefit with one of these plans can receive high-speed internet at no cost. More information on the ACP can be found at getinternet.gov and here.
  • The MA Department of Telecommunications and Cable has issued information about subsidized telephone, broadband, and cable services, including the Lifeline Program, which provides phone and internet service to eligible households.
  • The FCC has taken action to raise awareness about the Nationwide Lifeline Program for affordable telephone or internet service, a benefit for which many consumers may be newly eligible during the pandemic. For information on how to enroll, MA consumers can visit this website.
  • Contact the Attorney General’s office via the AGO’s Consumer Hotline (617-727-8400) if a consumer has difficulty reaching a service provider, or if telephone or broadband service has been shut off.
  • Visit EveryoneOn to search low-cost internet service providers.

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