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Cleveland woman fears health problems after shut-off warning

Posted at 3:46 PM, Sep 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 18:09:21-04

A disabled woman on Cleveland’s west side is worried about her and her grandson’s health after being served a notice that warns about disconnection of her power over past due bills.

“At night, I’m not really sleeping because I know tomorrow I’m going to have to worry again,” said Mendoza as she sat in her lift chair.  “I don’t know what to do.”

Years ago, she was in a car accident that shattered her knees and her life has never been the same. She has gained a lot of weight and she’s now disabled, a diabetic, and desperate. “I’m scared,” said Mendoza.

She has to keep her air conditioner on. Her lift chair works on electricity. Her electric wheelchair and outside wheelchair lift need power, too. However, it’s not only her own health she’s worried concerned about.

“I have a grandson who’s here. He’s 3 years old. He’s asthmatic. He uses a breathing machine often,” she said.

Mendoza told us she’s had people trying to work with CPP about her situation. “Council on Aging, case workers…they (CPP) won’t listen to them.”

Cleveland Public Power said that, unlike private electric companies, it doesn’t have its own long-term assistance program. It will help some people on low-incomes for a few months or extend payment times for people with health problems, but all money owed still piles up.

CPP did call us and said it’s working with Mendoza to help her with the bill. It also explained that CPP will accept money from the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). However, Mendoza said she’s called numerous times and has not been able to get through to that program to set up an appointment.

Meanwhile, Mendoza’s teenage daughter just got back to work and might be able to help with the bill, but it’s a long road ahead.

“It’s hard. It’s hard, you know? And they don’t understand that it’s people who are working and they’re one check away from being in the streets,” said Mendoza.

This is from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services about the law in Ohio concerning utility disconnection:

Ohio
Date-based: yes
Protection Dates
October 20-April 15
Temperature-based: no
Seasonal Policy
The winter reconnect order is issued on an annual basis by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The winter reconnect order allows residential customers who are disconnected or being threatened with disconnection the opportunity to pay no more than $175 to maintain their utility service. If the customer's service has already been disconnected, the customer must pay a reconnect fee of no more than $36 to restore. Customers who utilize the Winter Reconnect Order must enter into an extended payment plan on their remaining balance. Customers requesting new natural gas or electric services, who have no previous balance with their utility, may establish service under the winter reconnect order by paying $175, rather than paying the required security deposit. Customers may utilize the winter reconnect order one time from mid October through mid April.
Other
30 day disconnect delay if dangerous to health or if medical or life support equipment is necessary — as certified by a medical professional. If the customer has been shutoff, and the form is submitted within twenty one days of the shutoff, service is restored. Medical certification may be renewed three times in 12 months.
Deferred Payments
Disconnection is prohibited for Percentage of Income Plan (PIP) customers as long as they remain current with their PIP payment.
PUC/PSC Contacts
Consumer line: 800-686-7826
Consumer FAQ/Bill of Rights
www.puco.ohio.gov/PUCO/Consumer/information.cfm?id=4084
Complaint form
www.puc.state.oh.us/secure/PicForm/index.cfm?intype=question