updated 4/15/2011 5:52:49 AM ET 2011-04-15T09:52:49

STAMFORD, Conn., April 14, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A brutal winter across the nation and a struggling economy have hit homeowners hard. April marks the month when local utilities look to consumers to rectify delinquent accounts or face having their services shut off. This year that challenge appears to be more difficult than in years past with a record number of customers requesting additional help. In Ohio alone, 40,000 more homes have seriously delinquent Columbia Gas accounts than a year ago.

The U.S. Government, local utilities and independent energy providers are all working to create programs to help customers meet their financial energy obligation and avoid power turnoff.

MXenergy, one of the nation's leading independent energy providers, has created several different options for struggling homeowners. The Budget Billing program allows customers to pay the same amount on their energy bill each month, avoiding dramatic price fluctuations and allowing homeowners to better budget for their energy expenses.

"Obviously the very last thing we want to see is a home or family without heat or electricity," says Jeffrey Mayer, MXenergy President and CEO. "We understand that people are hurting and we have created these assistance programs so that power shutoff is the very last resort."

MXenergy also offers payment plan options to those customers who find themselves facing an unexpected economic challenge.

In Wisconsin, We Energies is again launching its "Stay Connected" campaign, utilizing phone calls, bill inserts and bill messages to alert delinquent customers and make them aware of payment options to avoid termination of services.

In addition to actions by local providers, the U.S. Office of Community Services administers a federally funded program to help low income households with their energy bills. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is managed by the Department of Human Resources. Homeowners can apply for assistance by contacting the National Energy Referral Hotline at 1-866-674-6327.

"LIHEAP is an excellent program," says Marjorie Kass, MXenergy Managing Director. "We work actively with LIHEAP to manage our customer's account to avoid disruption of service while they seek approval for program funds. No one wants to see customers reach the point where shutoff is the only option."  

Mayer agrees, "The strongest advice I can give our customers is to contact us as soon as possible when you realize you are in trouble. There are options available. Don't wait until you get a disconnect notice to ask for help."

Customers can find out more information about MXenergy's Budget Billing program and other payment options at www.mxenergy.com or by calling 1-800-785-4373. 

Wisconsin residents can learn more about the Wisconsin Energy Corporation at www.wisconsinenergy.com .

About MXenergy

MXenergy is one of the fastest growing retail natural gas and electricity suppliers in North America, serving approximately 500,000 customers in 41 utility territories in the United States and Canada. For over 11 years, the company has provided millions of customers with a choice in how they purchase energy to run their homes and businesses. Founded in 1999 to provide natural gas and electricity to consumers in deregulated energy markets, MXenergy  helps residential customers and small business owners control their energy bills by providing both fixed and variable rate plans MXenergy  is committed to best practices in environmental conservation, supporting local communities through various outreach programs and is a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange. For more information about MXenergy please visit www.mxenergy.com.

CONTACT: Marjorie Kass (203) 356-1318 ext. 7801
         Managing Director - Brand Management & Communications
         mkass@mxenergy.com
         
         Laurel O'Connor (209) 782-7212
         NorthStar Media Management LLC
         laurel@northstarmediamanagement.com

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