Electric Bill Payment Assistance
PUC (Public Utility Commission) rules require utilities to maintain information about bill payment assistance and energy efficiency programs.
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) is the state agency responsible for contracting with local agencies to provide bill payment assistance under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program.
Other Rate Discount Programs
Some regulated and municipal electric providers waive fees or provide other discounts to low-income customers. Examples are Austin Energy, El Paso Electric, and Entergy Gulf States. Ask your electricity provider if you are eligible for any special programs.
Many REPs (Retail Electric Providers) are now offering prepaid service to residential customers. The target market for prepaid service is low-income households. Under a prepaid plan the customer does not receive a monthly bill. It is the customer’s responsibility to monitor the account. It is the REPs' responsibility to provide information electronically about the account. Many bill payment assistance programs including the federally funded program and programs funded by counties do not provide energy assistance to customers taking prepaid service.
Special Payment Arrangements
During a heat advisory or extended below freezing weather your electricity cannot be disconnected under state law, even if you have prepaid service. See prohibitions in the next paragraph. REPs must provide you a deferred payment plan or advance you credit on a prepaid service plan.
To receive the special payment plan the customer must contact the REP. In July, August and September many customers are eligible for a deferred payment plan or a level billing plan. This includes low-income customers receiving the LITE-UP TEXAS discount and critical care and chronic condition customers that express an inability to pay. See page 4 of the PDF document for information on LITE-UP TEXAS. Critical care is a medical status for households with a member on life support equipment. Chronic condition is a medical status that indicates serious long-term illness that makes a person extremely sensitive to temperature as is the case with multiple sclerosis patients.
Customers that do not receive the LITE-UP discount and are not critical care or chronic care qualify for payment plants during the summer if they meet the three criteria. These are:
- 1) be a customer of the REP for at least 3 months
- 2) no disconnection of electricity service in the past 12 months
- 3) no more than 2 not sufficient funds (NSF) charges in the past 12 months.
The weatherization assistance program makes building improvements to reduce a low-income customer’s energy use.
The program is provided at no cost to the customer. Some examples of the energy saving improvements provided under the program are insulation, caulking and weatherstripping, emergency repair of air conditioners and furnaces, replacement high efficiency window air conditioners, high efficiency lighting and refrigerators. Weatherization funds are very limited in deregulated service areas. Locate the weatherization assistance program agencies that serves your area by calling toll free 1 (888) 606-8889. You can also locate information online at www.tdhca.state.tx.us.