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More than 130,000 households in the Baltimore area are eligible for assistance with energy bills but are not currently receiving help, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. representative told members of a City Hall committee Monday.

Customers who are having trouble paying bills can apply for assistance from the Fuel Fund, get help with weatherization and request a visit from a technician to learn how to make their homes more energy-efficient, David Conn, director of BGE's energy assistance program, told members of the urban affairs committee.

The committee is slated to vote on a measure Thursday that would ask a BGE senior vice president to report to the council on energy-assistance programs and strategies to prevent utility shut-offs.

"When service is interrupted, it causes a real safety hazard because people will do anything to make sure they have heat and light in their homes," said Councilwoman Belinda Conaway. "We don't want people to ignore their bills, but we need to be able to tell them what help is available."

Families whose income places them at 175 percent of the poverty line, or about 200,000 households in the Baltimore area, are eligible for help with energy bills, but fewer than 64,000 are receiving aid, Conn said.

During the winter months, service to residents who have not paid bills will be terminated only after utility company employees have contacted the customers. Utilities will not be shut off on days when the forecasted high temperature is freezing, Conn said.

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