With nearly 20 percent of Lucas County residents and 25.8 percent of Toledoans living at or below the federal poverty level, Columbia Gas of Ohio and the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo Inc. want to make sure residents know there is heating help and other assistance available this winter.
An information fair will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday at the Erie Street Market, 237 South Erie St., to discuss utility and social service programs offering assistance. EOPA, for example, will hold a workshop during the information fair to discuss heat assistance programs, including one to reconnect customers.
Under the reconnect program, Columbia Gas and other natural gas or electric utilities regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio will restore service for no more than $175, plus a reconnection fee of no more than $36, no matter what is owed or how long service has been off. For those who do not have the money for reconnection, assistance will be available starting Nov. 1 through EOPA, although funding is expected to be tight this year because of government cutbacks.
The reconnect program has been ordered by PUCO for 27 years, and this heating season it runs through April 13. There is no income eligibility requirement, but customers may only use the program once and must sign up for a payment plan to settle any remaining past-due balance on their utility bill.
Also Thursday at the information fair, the Fair Housing Center will hold a workshop on avoiding foreclosure, and Neighborhood Health Association will address medical services for both the insured and uninsured. The city of Toledo and Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority will give an overview of services, while FirstEnergy will address avoiding electricity disconnection.
Applications also will be available for housing through LMHA and for home weatherization through Neighborhood Housing Services of Toledo.