This is the time of the year when we all give thanks, count our blessings, and as the temperatures drop outside, make sure that the roof over our heads keeps our families warm. But for some families, staying warm is difficult due to financial strains. That’s why Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) wants to remind customers who need financial assistance with their monthly bills of the variety of relief programs available. For example, the State of New Mexico offers the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
LCU customers participating in LIHEAP are protected from disconnection related to winter shut offs that began November 15. However, LCU customers who have trouble paying their monthly bills and are not participating in LIHEAP risk having their service disconnected during the winter heating period that lasts through March 15, 2022. To avoid potential disconnection of services, LCU is urging customers to contact the Human Services Department (HSD) at 800-283-4465 for eligibility information on LIHEAP. "While LIHEAP approved accounts won't be shut-off for gas, bills can pile up, and we don't want that to be a mountain for customers to climb in the spring," said LCU Billing & Receivables Supervisor Steven Valdez.
There is no deadline to apply for LIHEAP. Once a customer applies, HSD will send a file to LCU Receivables that protects the account from disconnection and provides the amount of funding approved. Processing can take up to 30 days.
If customers do fall behind, LCU notifies customers of past-due balances. The first point of contact is a past due reminder mailed to their billing address. If there is no payment to their account within 15 days, the customer receives a doorhanger and a message by phone, text, and email of the past due balance. The goal of LCU’s communication process is to start the conversation with the customer about paying down service debts that may have accrued. "Even if times are hard, have a quick conversation with our accounts receivable representatives. You can make partial payments, payment plans, or you can make a promise to pay when you know you'll get funds. Each account gets evaluated on a case-by-case basis - medical situations, job loss, we know that there are circumstances that change for people and their families. We can help them find solutions," said Valdez.
Another helpful payment option available for LCU customers is the Emergency Rent & Utilities Assistance Program (ERAP) from Doña Ana County ERAP administers funds provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for all LCU customers who are in a financial hardship. To access ERAP assistance, a customer must first visit the online website at www. donaanacounty.org/rent-utilities-assistance or call, 575-525-5898 to speak with a representative who can provide required information.
The bottom line for LCU customers who need financial assistance is that there is assistance available from both the State of New Mexico and Doña Ana County. Get protection from disconnection and keep warm during the winter season.
LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
CAPTION: PHOTO 1: Keep your home warm during the winter season-Courtesy LCU