By Michelle Durham

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania officials say that as the bitter cold weather returns, thousands more state residents than last year are living in homes without heat.

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Officials put the number of households at more than 19,000, up about three thousand from last year.

Denise McCracken, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, says more families are having their utilities shut off because of the ongoing economic downturn.

But she says that if your utilities are being turned off for non-payment, the best thing to do is get in touch with the utility company.

“We want to make sure that customers who have been terminated from their payment agreement or any type of billing program know there are programs out there.  Just because you can’t pay your electric bill doesn’t mean you have to go without heat.  Call your utility.  If they’re trying to contact you, please contact them,” she advises.

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One  issue facing these customers is the fees tacked on by the utility to restore service.  McCracken says if you can’t successfully negotiate terms with the utility, contact the PUC.

“We have a call center with representatives who are available to help them, to kind of be the intermediary between the utility and the customer, and try to get them on the best payment plan possible,” she tells KYW Newsradio.

The PUC call center number is 1-800-692-7380.


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