District residents who are having problems paying their heating bills can contact Washington Gas for help in making out a payment plan or for applying for federal assistance.

Federal funds are available to low-income customers under the Home Energy Assistance Program, and Washington Gas will refer low-income customers to the proper energy assistance agencies. Last year, more than 15,000 homes served by Washington Gas received government help in paying winter heating bills.

Washington Gas spokesman Jim Freeman said the federal program has been changed this year and many more customers qualify under the new guidelines.

Freeman also said the company can work out a payment plan to fit the individual needs of the customers. He said that many customers have joined the Level Payment Plan, which spreads out gas bills over an 11-month period in equal monthly installments. About 105,000 customers, nearly one-fourth of all residential heating customers, are on the plan.

Customers can call the customer service number at 750-1000 to obtain information or can visit the office at 1100 H St. NW. Energy conservation booklets, which include do-it-yourself instructions, also are available free of charge by calling the gas company.