Customer Assistance & Payment Options
Financial hardships can make it difficult for some of our customers to pay their energy bills. This past year was especially difficult for many due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Government-sponsored energy assistance programs provided approximately $92 million in federal and private energy assistance to our customers across our service territory in 2020 – a 41% increase compared to 2019 – in response to the pandemic. Financial hardship was experienced across AEP’s service territory as well, where the median income is 20% below the U.S. average and 96% of our customers live in counties where the median income is below the national average.
In 2020, we received more than 24,200 pledges totaling more than $6.7 million in energy assistance from our self-serve agency websites. The funding available to support our energy assistance programs comes from a variety of sources, including the government, social service agencies and voluntary customer contributions. Income guidelines determine eligibility.
Throughout our service territory, we help customers gain access to energy assistance. Our success rests on building strong partnerships with community action agencies, community based organizations, faith-based organizations and food banks.
For example, in 2020, Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) provided customers with information on income qualified energy efficiency pilots, education regarding our Low Income Customer and Senior Citizen Discount Programs, education on customer assistance programs including extended payment arrangements, Energy Share, and income qualified energy efficiency program updates. In addition, I&M made a $25,000 contribution to Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency for Energy Share, which grants hardship assistance to help qualified customers with their bills.
Learn more about some of the energy assistance programs helping customers in our service territory:
Flexible Payment Options
Our customers want simple and secure payment options through multiple digital channels. In response, we are continuing to simplify the payment processes, including working with regulators to structure rates that absorb or recover credit card fees. We also are implementing more flexible payment options, including pre-pay and basing required customer payments on their previous year’s energy use.
We also provided billing and payment relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about how AEP supported our customers in the COVID-19 section.