What Happens If I Pay My Electric Bill Late

One of the consequences of falling behind on utility bills is the damage it does to your credit score. For relief, check into government help, charity organizations and even utility company programs that will help you catch up.

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Learn About Electric Bill Help

Utilities might seem to be one of the more easily addressed debts on your list of monthly bills. It’s not difficult to adjust the heat and air conditioner settings to save money or turn off unused appliances and lights in uninhabited rooms.

But in times of trouble – think the COVID-19 pandemic — keeping the lights on can be a real struggle. Fortunately, there are agencies and organizations that will provide assistance. Unfortunately, even with help, thousands and sometimes millions struggle to keep up.

The average electric bill in the United States in late 2021 was $124.93 per month (up from $113.59 in 2020) and ranged from a low of $84.67 per month in Utah to a high of $178.02 in Hawaii. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, energy costs consume between 5% and 22% of a family’s monthly budget.

The National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) estimated that entering the summer of 2021, Americans were more than $20 billion behind on utility and water bills. The winter of 2021-22 could present significant challenges. The price of natural gas, which many use to heat their homes, increased by 60% from December of 2020 to 2021, and homes that use electricity for heat expected an increase of 15% in price.

For much of 2020 and part of 2021, federal, state and even utility companies put a moratorium on shutting off the electricity. Some cold-weather states kept moratoriums in place in 2021, but for much of the nation, the pause on payment is over and bills came due for an estimated 37 million households.

Typically, an electric bill is issued 21 days after the meter is read. Once you receive the bill, you have up to 30 days to pay it. If you don’t pay, the fallout depends where you live. Many cold-weather states do not allow shutoffs in winter. But a utility will send a notice that the bill is unpaid a few days after the due date. Once you receive that notice, and depending where you live, you then would have a few days to a few weeks before the electricity is shut off.

If it sounds harsh, it’s because it is.

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