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Help with Utilities During COVID-19

The Texas Public Utility Commission has halted electricity, water, and sewage shutoffs until at least May 15 and longer in some circumstances. To benefit from this, private utility customers must contact their utility provider and ask about the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program. 

The halt on shutoffs applies to electric, water, and sewer service. There is no statewide halt to natural gas shutoffs at this time.

How do I keep my electricty connected?

Electricity Relief ProgramLow income residents can avoid shutoffs by contacting their provider and adding their name to the state's Low Income List. You can go to https://www.txcovid19erp.org/ or call 866-454-8387 to ask to be put on the Low Income List. To get on the list, you must be able qualify for unemployment benefits. You will have to send them proof of unemployment benefit eligibility from the Texas Workforce Commission within 30 days. Be sure to have your electricity provider and account information handy when you call. 

You must get on the Low Income List by August 31 to get COVID-related help.

Also be aware that the Electricity Relief Program is set to end on September 31.

Contact Your Provider: If you cannot pay your electricity contact your utility provider. Even if your utility company has stated it will halt shutoffs due to emergency order, local ordinance, or by voluntary action, contact your utility provider. You may need to ask for help to avoid shutoffs. 

While the universal statewide halt on utility shutoffs has expired, many utility companies are still voluntarily halting shutoffs and working with people to help them pay their bills even if they are not on the Low Income List. Ask your utility provider about deferments and payment plans.

Municipal Utilities

If you purchase your electricity from a city, they may have their own assistance program in place. Many city and government-owned utilities have halted electricity shutoffs, including: 

Be sure you contact your provider to find out how to participate in their assistance programs.

Some cities have also created programs to help with utility bills.

Contact Your Utility Provider

The best thing you can do to keep your utilities on may be to contact your utility providers. There are a number of programs that might help you if you ask. 

How do I keep my water and sewer connected?

The Public Utility Commission halt of water and sewer shutoffs ended on June 13. Pending any renewal, many public water and sewer providers are still suspending shutoffs. These include:

Some cities have also created programs to help with utility bills.

Contact your water and sewer provider to see if they are suspending shutoffs. They may also work with you to defer payments.

What about natural gas service?

At this time, the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program only applies to electricity, water, and sewage. That is because the Public Utilitiy Commission, which issued the relief order, does not regulate natural gas. The Railroad Commission regulates natural gas. 

That said, some natural gas providers have voluntarily halted natural gas shutoffs due to COVID-19.

 

Companies halting gas shutoffs:

The above list may be incomplete or out of date. Whether listed here or not, contact your gas provider to ask about programs to keep your gas connected.

Note that you will still owe money for unpaid gas bills. The above companies have said only that they will temporarily halt shutoffs for nonpayment.

 

What about internet?

Many internet providers have programs to help people suffering hardship due to COVID-19. Contact your provider to benefit from these programs.

For more help affording internet, see our Internet Access article.

For help finding free public internet access, see the Texas Free WiFi Map.

I asked my electricity provider for a deferment, but they refused. What now?

From Texas RioGrande Legal Aid: Nearly every electric provider in Texas is required to offer a deferment upon request. Some co-ops and municipal providers may be exempt from this requirement. If your deferment request was wrongfully denied, gather your emails and correspondence about the deferment request, then call or email your complaint to the Public Utility Commission of Texas at 888-782-8477, customer@puc.texas.gov. To find help paying your bill, call 211, or contact the Texas Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

My kids need the internet for school, but I can't afford it. What can I do?

Some internet providers have special deals that can help.

  • Spectrum has low-income internet available in some areas. See Spectrum's Internet Assist program.
  • Xfinity is offering free wi-fi hotspots in some areas. See more here.
  • AT&T has low-income internet available in some areas. See AT&T's Access program.
  • Internet Essentials is offering two free months of internet service to qualifying customers. See more here.

Some schools are also doing their best to provide internet access to students. Austin, for example, has a fleet of buses that provide WiFi throughout the school district. (If you live in Austin, see the Austin ISD WiFi bus map.)

Also see the Texas Free Wifi Map to see if there is free public WiFi in your area.

For information on whether your child's school district helps provide access to the internet and online classes, go to the school's website, school district's website, or contact your school administrators.

Does this mean I won't owe money for utilities?

No. The COVID-19 Electricity Relief program allows you to ask your utility company to defer your bills. Your utility payment will eventually be due. 

Remember, you must contact your utility company to participate in the program.

If you have complaints about your utility provider, call the Public Utility Commission of Texas at 888-782-8477, or email customer@puc.texas.gov

Does the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program apply to businesses?

No. The COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program only applies to residences at this time.

If your business is having trouble paying your utilities, contact your provider. They may still be able to work with you.

My utilities have already been shut off. Does this mean my provider has to turn them back on?

No. The COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program only stops your provider from shutting your utilities off. It does not require them to turn your utilities back on. However, if you contact your provider they may still work with you.

I'm confused. Who do I call? Are my utility providers halting shutoffs?

Texas has a complicated patchwork of public and private utility sellers and resellers. If in doubt, contact your providers.

Be sure to write down the time you contacted the provider, the name of the person you talked to, and what was said.

My landlord shut off my utilities. Can they do that?

No, your landlord cannot shut off your utilities. This is true even if you are behind on rent.

For more information:

Also, the Texas Justice Court Training Center has made court forms to help you force your landlord to turn your utilities back on. You can get the forms here. 

Can I get help paying my utilities?

Maybe. The following programs exist to help people pay utilities:

This list is likely incomplete, so you may want to check with your local government or utility provider to see if they have additional programs.