BERLIN – Two new programs to help Berlin electric customers pay their bills and reduce their electric costs have been put in place just in time for colder weather.
Electric customers in dire straits can now receive assistance in paying those bills through Berlin’s new Energy Assistance Program. The new program is available through ShoreUp! and is meant for customers who have been denied assistance through Maryland’s energy help program.
In the recent past, high electric rates for Berlin electric customers combined with a worsening economy and seasonal unemployment saw quite a few customers unable to pay their electric bills.
Electric customers are struggling with bills, Berlin customer service representative Michelle Townsend said. Her office is currently preparing termination letters, which range from 150 to 300 every month.
“We’re very close to 300 this time, if not 300,” Townsend said.
About 30 of those letters contain final cut off notices.
“When it comes down to the cut offs they have gotten less. There was a time when we would do 100 cut offs,” Townsend said. “A lot of people are getting help.”
Townsend says that there are fewer cut off notices sent out over the winter now because people are more likely to get help. Customer service representatives for the town often give out contact information for ShoreUp! to struggling customers.
Cut offs are also reduced over the winter because, by law, the town cannot terminate electric service to structures with electric-based heat, so many of those customers do not pay their winter bills.
“A lot of people let their bills go through the winter and in the springtime it’s very rough. They have to come up with a lot of money,” said Townsend.
People in need of Berlin’s Energy Assistance Program must go through ShoreUp!’s intake process, be Berlin Electric customers, have been denied help from the Maryland Energy Assistance Program and be facing termination due to unpaid bills.
Citizens can contribute to the energy assistance fund. All contributions would be matched by the council, up to $10,000.
Free energy audits by certified town employees are also now available through the town. The audit will identify where a home is losing electricity and what improvements might be made to improve the building’s efficiency and reduce bills.