With winter at the doorstep, we have several programs to help its income-eligible customers pay their bills, maintain uninterrupted service and stay warm this season.

Electric use tends to spike in winter, as it can in summer, and that means some of the utility’s customers who are struggling financially also will struggle to pay their electric bill. Sometimes people on fixed or limited incomes are forced into choosing whether to pay their energy bill or buy sufficient food for their family.

According to PPL Electric Utilities, about 25 percent of its residential customers have household incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which is the eligibility cut-off point for many low-income assistance programs. And each year thousands of eligible customers don’t take advantage of programs available to them.

Here’s a look at the programs that can help. There’s additional information at www.pplelectric.com/billhelp.

OnTrack is a program for income-eligible customers that offers reduced monthly bill payments and a chance to erase any debt you owe. We work with a network of local agencies to administer this program.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is funded by the federal government and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. It provides cash grants to help families with heating bills, and crisis grants to help families who are at-risk of losing their power or who are coping with heating emergencies.

Customers don’t have to receive public assistance to qualify and don’t need to have an unpaid heating bill. Both renters and homeowners are eligible.

Programs also are available to help customers save energy and money. Our Winter Relief Assistance Program (WRAP) helps income-eligible customers by providing energy audits. The program also can include the free installation of energy-efficient appliances and home weatherization measures. Income guidelines are listed with WRAP program information.

To eliminate seasonal spikes in bills in high-demand seasons like winter and summer, budget billing is an option to spread out estimated annual electricity expenses over 12 months. In other words, customers in the program pay roughly the same amount each month and know what to expect ahead of time.

Lastly, there’s Operation HELP, PPL Electric Utilities’ hardship fund for customers having trouble paying their energy bills. The program has provided peace of mind to 86,000 families who have benefited from more than $24 million collected through Operation HELP over the past 30 years.

Customers can elect to contribute monthly as part of their bill or make a one-time contribution.

Donations come from people in the cities and towns served by PPL Electric Utilities, as well as its employees, retirees and the company itself. There’s an Operation HELP insert included in the December bill.