Often bad things happen to good people. While few people would imagine it as a regular part of adult and family life, illness, accidents and resulting job loss can put even the most hardworking head of household in the position of not being able to pay basic bills. Although deregulation of energy provision has increased healthy competition for customers among electricity companies, it has also produced general agreement that, wherever possible, one role of an electricity company is to help customers find a way to pay for the essential service they need. If you foresee difficulty in paying upcoming electricity bills, therefore, one of your first steps should be to contact your energy provider, to explore the programs it can help you access to lessen the strain.
Best known among governmental programs to help those unable to pay utility bills is the federally-funded state-administered program known as CEAP: the nationwide Comprehensive Energy Assistance program, which makes financial support available to low-income families, individuals, disabled people, and households containing elderly people (over age 60) and young children (under age 6). Households of one or more people may apply so long as household income does not exceed 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Sample Eligibility Limits for CEAP Assistance:
|Household Size||Annual Income Limit (2018)|
Texas DHCA publishes an eligibility chart for households as large as 8 (https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/community-affairs/ceap/guidance.htm). For larger families, add $6,480 for each additional person.
Although CEAP is a federally-funded program for low-income people, unlike some other assistance programs, it is grant-based. Funding is provided for as many eligible households as possible, but program money is limited. Your energy provider or your local office for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs can help you get an application to this reliable source of support.
Programs by Electricity Providers
Your electricity provider will also have other suggestions for stretching your electric dollar farther. Many companies maintain or have access to community-donation funds. You may be eligible for direct financial support in keeping your electric bill paid up to date. Others participate in statewide support programs, one of which goes by the name Neighbor-to-Neighbor. Part of deregulation is a company’s freedom to develop links of support that best serve its customers and its community. Ask your energy company how they can help.
Another option your company may offer is a payment plan that lets you set aside the same amount every month for electricity. In some situations, being able to do that kind of planning ahead, knowing you will be spared sudden rises in costs in the event of excessive heat or cold weather, is all you need to stabilize your payment schedule. Payment plans do require at least a year’s commitment; see Does a Payment Plan Save on Your Electricity Costs? for some tips for evaluating the usefulness of a payment plan for you.
Traditional Texas problem-solving always involved a good deal of reaching out one-by-one, rather than creation of large, overarching government-administered programs. This tradition continues in the Texas religious community. Therefore, one possible source of help with electric bills may be your local church or denominational association. Look also at non-religious community funds as a possible source of help. You may be gratefully surprised at what you find.
Remember that your energy supplier would rather provide what you need than withhold it. This means that your electricity company is prepared to work with you to solve your bill-paying problems rather than make difficult times harder.