MASSENA — The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) has been extended this year until June 30 or until the funds are exhausted, offering Massena Electric Department customers an extra opportunity to apply for assistance with their electric bill.
“HEAP was extended through the end of April, and now it’s been extended as an opportunity for a customer to get another emergency benefit,” Treasurer Jeffrey Dobbins said.
“Usually HEAP is closed by now,” Superintendent Andrew McMahon said.
HEAP helps eligible households meet their home energy needs in the winter season. The money can pay for fuel, the person’s utility source, equipment and/or repairs.
Mr. Dobbins said 90 to 95 percent of MED’s customers who are eligible for HEAP respond and request the assistance.
“Even though it’s been extended, it doesn’t mean all of our customers take advantage of it. Some customers aren’t motivated until everything’s happened,” he said.
Mr. McMahon said eligible customers need to take advantage of the opportunity to receive the benefit.
“The fact that we can help customers get out of disconnect and get caught up on their bills this late in the year is a big deal,” he said.
The department is also trying to assist customers in other ways during the coronavirus period. For instance, while they are maintaining normal billing practices, they have temporarily suspended any disconnect activities.
While MED has maintained their normal working hours, their offices are closed until further notice because of COVID-19 concerns. They encourage customers to pay by one of several methods.
Payment by check or money order can be dropped off at the night drops in front of their building and the Massena Town Hall, or can be mailed through the U.S. Postal Service.
Customers can also pay through their online banking, on-line at www.massenaelectric.com, or by calling 844-915-2876. MED has temporarily waived all fees that would normally be charged for on-line and phone payments. That waiver was set to expire on June 1, but has been extended until July 7.
“Based on where we’re at and what’s been going on, we had a discussion with the Finance Committee” and agreed to the extensions, Mr. Dobbins said.
Deputy Treasurer Lori Pryce said customers have been taking advantage of the various payment systems such as Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), Automated Clearing House (ACH) or Invoice Cloud, the department’s online payment system.
“Invoice Cloud continues to do well. During the month of April, we took in over 1,300 payments through Invoice Cloud and waived another $4,100 in fees for the month of April,” she said. “We took in almost $159,000 strictly through Invoice Cloud.”
Ms. Pryce said they had another 290 first-time customers for Invoice Cloud.
“259 of those typically pay in cash,” she said. “Twenty-one percent of all payments we got through Invoice Cloud in April were new customers, new to the service.”
The phone payment system has been running since May 6, and Ms. Pryce said 28 payments totaling nearly $2,000 have been made through that method.
She said, since MED began waiving the fees for the online and phone payment systems, they’ve waived nearly $8,300 in fees for more than 2,700 customers.