It’s difficult to live in Florida without reliable electricity, especially in the midst of a pandemic when it’s safer to stay home and quarantine than go outside.
And power bills can be expensive, particularly if you’ve lost your job or are furloughed and also have to pay for rent, food and other basics. In June 2020, FPL estimated that a regular residential customer’s monthly bill would cost $96.43. This includes Florida’s gross receipt tax and excludes credits, fees or local taxes that may be added depending on where the customer lives.
This year, more than 30,000 Florida Power & Light customers are months behind on their payments and on Oct. 1, the utility resumed disconnections after pausing them in March.
For families struggling to keep the lights on, there are programs available to help cover the cost.
Assistance programs to pay FPL bill
FPL customers anywhere in Florida can visit FPL.com/Help or call 800-226-3545 for a list of resources that are available for residential and business customers. You can also find tips and tools to help lower your electricity bill.
The website has several options, but one of the most useful tabs to click is “Get Help, Give Help.” This is where you can request a temporary extension to pay your bill and find information about financial assistance programs for FPL customers who need help paying their electric bills.
Keep in mind that each program has different requirements and not everyone who applies for assistance will qualify.
Here are some options for residential customers:
▪ FPL Care to Share program can give eligible households up to $500 during a 12-month period to help pay their power bill.
In Miami-Dade, the one-time assistance is up to $600 in a 12-month period, according to the county’s Light Bill Assistance webpage.
FPL says the program is run by local nonprofits and government agency partners and may prioritize households where there are children under 10, senior citizens or someone with a disability.
Eligibility requirements include:
▪ Showing proof that you are going through a personal or family crisis
▪ Having been disconnected or in danger of being disconnected (delinquent FPL bill, final notice or disconnect notice)
▪ Showing that the total household income (the combined income of everyone who lives at the home) falls at or below the federal poverty level.
To see if you are eligible and to apply, contact FPL Customer Service to inquire about the nearest assistance agency, call 211 or view the list of FPL’s partner agencies that are assisting in the program at https://www.fpl.com/help/partner-agencies.html
▪ Florida’s Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly Program (EHEAP) is meant for low-income households where at least one person is 60 and older.
There must also be a “documented heating or cooling emergency,” which may result from a delinquent utility bill or a disconnection notice. This aid can be requested twice a year — once during the heating season (October-March) and again during the cooling season (April-September).
To check eligibility requirements and to apply, contact your local Aging and Disability Resource Center, call the Elder Helpline at 800-96-ELDER (800-963-5337) or reach out to a community agency EHEAP provider in your area. You can find your local resource center at http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/docs/eheap_providers.pdf.
▪ Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps low-income households pay home heating and cooling bills. The federally funded program cannot pay for water, sewer or telephone services. Eligibility will be determined on a variety of factors, including your total household income.
And if you live in Miami-Dade County, the program is also providing COVID-19 help to residents who are “experiencing a hardship in paying their home energy bill due to the pandemic,” according to Miami-Dade County’s Light Bill Assistance webpage.
Residents who qualify for the COVID-19 aid may be eligible to receive up to $2,000 within a 12-month period, according to the program. Keep in mind that not everyone who applies for assistance will qualify.
You can usually apply for LIHEAP online through your county’s local agency.
If you live in Miami-Dade County, online applications are temporarily unavailable. This means you need to apply by mail, in person or by dropping off your application at a dropbox in front of your nearest Community Resource Center.
Online applications are also not available in Broward and Monroe counties, which means you’ll need to contact your local LIHEAP agency.
To find your nearest center in Miami-Dade or to learn more, visit www.miamidade.gov/global/socialservices/home.page and click “Light Bill Assistance.” You can also call 786-469-4640. If you live in Broward, the Florida Keys or another part of Florida, find your local agency by visiting:
TIP: FPL says that beginning in December, customers who get federal help with their power bills through a program like LIHEAP or EHEAP will also get a $20 monthly credit. The program will run through December 2021.
The utility also began offering a $200 credit to customers who agree to pay off the rest of their outstanding balance with cash, along with their longstanding repayment program that pushes some of the cost of summer bills onto traditionally lower winter bills.
And if you need help with more than just your electric bill, FPL also lists other useful programs and services through its “Community Resources” section. Some of these programs cater to senior citizens, others are specifically for low-income households and others provide support for other needs such as food and disaster relief.
Organizations include the Lifeline Program, which can help pay a portion of your monthly telephone bill and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), which offers free tax help for low- to moderate-income Florida residents.
See the full list at https://www.fpl.com/help/community-resources.html and remember to check with your county as well, as there are likely other nonprofits and assistance programs available to you locally.
Miami Herald staff writers Alex Harris and C. Isaiah Smalls II contributed to this report.