If you receive electric or gas from a utility company that is regulated and you qualify financially, you are eligible for a discount on your utility bill. Local telephone companies also offer discounts (called “Lifeline” and “Linkup”) to customers who qualify financially.
If you get your electricity or gas from a municipal gas or electric department, a company that has the name of your city or town in its name (like Holyoke Gas and Electric,) these utilities do not have to offer low-income discount rates. (Belmont Municipal Light Department, however, voluntarily offers low-income discounts.)
Most people still use Verizon for their local wireline service. Its Lifeline program provides a discount of up to $18.39 per month off the regular bill ($220.68 per year). This Verizon discount applies to local telephone service. It may not apply if you have more than one line or if you have other services. Also, it does not apply to long distance, cellular phones, or cable service.
See LifelineSupport for more information about the Lifeline program. Currently in Massachusetts, Verizon, RCN, Grandy Telephone Company, Richmond Telephone, and Taconic Telephone companies offer the Lifeline discount through their landline or wireless services.
Am I eligible for a discount for gas or electricity service?
To be eligible for electric and gas discounts, you need to receive fuel assistance (LIHEAP) or other assistance under a government program that serves low-income households. You are eligible if your income is below 60% of Estimated State Median Income for the size of your household. Here is a chart with guidelines for 2012-2013.
Household Size: 60% of Estimated State Median Income
For each additional family member see the LIHEAP Clearinghouse. Updated Nov. 2012
- TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children),
- EAEDC (Emergency Assistance to Elderly, Disabled and Children),
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income),
- SNAP/Food Stamps,
- Fuel Assistance (also called LIHEAP), or
Lifelinesupport has more information. You can call your local telephone company to determine eligibility, or call the Department of Telecommunications and Cable with questions at (800) 392-6066.
It's fairly easy to apply. If you receive fuel assistance, the community action program or agency that handles your fuel assistance application will usually contact the utility for you, or will help you apply.
Whether or not you get fuel assistance, call your gas, electric or phone company to see if you're on the discount rate. If not, ask for an application. You'll need to fill out a separate application for each company, for example: one for Verizon, one for Boston Gas, and one for NSTAR Electric.
Yes. If you get fuel assistance, the fuel assistance agency often tells the utility or telephone company that you are receiving fuel assistance and are eligible for the discount rate. But this does not always happen. So, you should call the company to find out whether you are receiving the discount.
- For telephone service, ask whether you are on the Lifeline rate.
- For electric and gas, most companies called their discount rates the "R 2" rate or the "R 4" rate. Ask if you're on the discount rate.
If you are on one of the government programs that cooperates with automatic enrollment, you will not need to do anything to get automatically enrolled, other than signing your name on the government assistance application (for example, the application for TAFDC or SNAP/Food Stamps) and giving the state permission to tell your utility company you are income eligible for the discount rates.
- Berkshire Gas
- Blackstone Gas
- Columbia Gas (was Bay State Gas)- English, Español
- National Grid (was Keyspan and Massachusetts Electric Company)
- New England Gas
- Unitil Gas and Electric (Fitchburg Gas and Electric Company), for Spanish call 888-301-7700.
- Western Massachusetts Electric Company- English, Español
You can also contact the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the state agency that regulates electric, gas and other utilities. You can reach the DPU's Consumer Division at (617) 737-2836 or (877) 886-5066 (toll free).
You can also contact the Department of Telecommunications and Energy (DTE), the state agency that regulates telephone companies. Contact the DTE's Consumer Division at 617-305-3531 or 800-392-6066.
Produced by National Consumer Law Center and Mass Law Reform Institute Last updated November, 2009