Regardless of the reasons for financial difficulties, sometimes it's just really impossible for people who are living paycheck to paycheck to pay their bills. Just one hardship like a vehicle repair can send your mind reeling on what bills definitely need to be covered and which ones can wait. If you have to decide between paying your electric bill and paying your rent, you should choose to pay your rent, especially if you are at risk of being evicted.
While keeping a roof over your head is a high priority, keeping the electricity on is also a high priority. Here are a few things you can try that can put a temporary stop to an electric bill shut off notice.
File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
If you need immediate relief yet know you will be able to pay the electric bill within 20 days, file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You will need to show proof that you can make the payment before the time limit is up. As soon as you file the paperwork with a bankruptcy attorney, notify the attorney that you have a shutoff notice from the electric company.
The attorney can then fax the necessary paperwork to the electric company. Look at this situation as a good thing. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help you get back on your feet again.
Apply for LIHEAP
LIHEAP stands for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is state-run and federally financed. It is a program to help low-income households pay their utility bills. Call the electric company and tell them that you would like to apply for LIHEAP. They will give you a number to call to start the process.
Depending on the laws of your state, the utility company may give you additional time to complete the questionnaire through a phone representative and for the LIHEAP representatives to process your information. During the application process, you will be asked questions regarding your income, bills, expenses, and occupants of the home.
If you choose to apply for both LIHEAP and Chapter 7 bankruptcy, be sure to inform the representative that some of the information regarding your expenses may change in the future due to the Chapter 7 filing. Be sure to obtain any confirmation numbers given to you by the electric company and the LIHEAP representative.
File an Emergency Medical Notice
If you or a member of your household has a medical condition that requires electricity, such as the need for medication to be refrigerated, the need for air conditioning, or the need to charge a blood pressure reading machine. The physician does not need to provide any details regarding the medical condition due to HIPAA. You will need to call the physician who is treating the person and ask them to provide the electric company with what is called an emergency medical notice.
You may need to call the electric company to have them fax a form to your physician to fill out. Doing this will usually give you additional time in which to make good on your payment to the electric company. In Massachusetts, chronic illnesses can give an additional 180 days and illnesses that are not chronic can give an additional 90 days. In some locations, this can only be used once, so you may want to hold off on doing this in case you need to do it at a later date.
In conclusion, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can give you an additional 20 days. Applying for LIHEAP can lower your electric bills in the future. Should you need more time to pay the electric bill and you do have a household member who will qualify for an emergency medical notice, you can then file one to extend the time, if necessary, but the Chapter 7 bankruptcy should leave you in a better position financially. Reach out to a bankruptcy attorney to learn more.