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Tips for applying for utility assistance

A blue calculator and lightbulb sit on top of a utility bill.

Save copies of your bills or disconnection notices

Some programs will require proof your utility has been shut off or at risk of being disconnected. This could be an actual bill or a photo of the bill showing your name and address.

Keep proof when you apply for programs

Some programs will ask for proof that you have applied for HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) and PIPP (Percentage of Income Payment Plan). These are the two main federal energy assistance programs available in Ohio.

Gather documents before you apply

Have your income information and other bills and documents ready before you start an application. For online submissions, a cellphone photo of these documents is good enough if you are submitting them online.

Submitting documents 

You can make copies or send faxes of your documents from your local library branch. Libraries also have computers available to fill out online applications.

Keep your originals 

Make copies or take photos of your documents to submit. Hang on to your original documents.

Zero income

If you have no income, you’ll be asked for an IRS tax transcript. If you filed a tax return, or even if you did not, you can go to https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript to get your transcript.

Check back often 

Local nonprofits that take applications for the federal utility assistance often require you to make an appointment. Step Forward and CHN Housing Partners in Cleveland have limited time slots for appointments, which are often virtual or over the phone. Check in the morning or several times throughout the day.

For the most up-to-date information on available programs or help with the process call United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline or chat with a navigator online.

2022 federal poverty guideline annual income reference

List of common documents required:

  • Copies of past-due utility bills
  • Photo ID
  • Social Security cards for household members. Can include printouts from Social Security showing the full number. 
  • Medicaid cards and Ohio Works First SNAP printouts.
  • Proof of one month of income for everybody 18 or older in a household. Keep in mind you need each paystub you’ve received for the month.
  • Proof of citizenship or legal residency: often Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports. Only U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or immigrants with a qualified alien (immigrant) status are eligible for most of these programs.Some agencies will only accept birth certificates (or newborn birth letters). You can obtain copies of birth certificates by calling the Cleveland Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics at (866) 691-1914.
  • Proof that you have applied for programs such as HEAP and PIPP.
  • Proof of any disability or health issue such as a note from your doctor or counselor.

Where else can I look for help?

Call United Way’s 211 helpline for the most up-to-date information. Trained navigators will help you find the help you need, whether it’s for utility bills or for help finding housing or food. Some local service providers are:

Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland: (216) 861-8185

Legal Aid Society of Cleveland: (216) 687-1900 (216-586-3190 for Spanish)

Northeast Ohio Coalition to End Homelessness (call to reach an outreach worker if you are homeless): (216) 432-0540

Catholic Charities: (800) 860-7373

Cleveland Public Library: (216) 623-2800

Lakewood Community Services Center: (216) 226-6466

Greater Cleveland Food Bank Help Center: (216) 738-2067

Community Housing Solutions: (216) 231-5815

Cuyahoga County Job and Family Services: (844) 640-6646

EDEN: (216) 961-9690

May Dugan Center: (216) 631-5800

Journey Center for Safety and Healing (for survivors of domestic or sexual violence): (216) 229-2420

For birth certificates: Cleveland Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics at (866) 691-1914.