For immediate assistance concerning your utility bills, consult the following:
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA)
TDHCA operates a toll-free energy assistance helpline. TDHCA can assist you in locating the billing assistance program agencies in your area, including summer utility assistance.
Texas Public Utility Commission
Offers information on low-income assistance programs, emergency disconnection rules and more.
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Health & Human Services
Lite-Up Texas grant funds
You Can Weather the Rising Costs of Texas Seasons
Learn more about what you can do when the cost of staying cool in the summer or warm in the winter rises faster than your ability to pay (reprinted with permission from AARP-Texas).
In Texas, your electricity or gas heat cannot be turned off during a “weather emergency.” In the summer, a weather emergency occurs when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory for any county in the service territory on any one of the previous two calendar days. A winter weather emergency is defined as a day when the previous day’s highest temperature did not exceed 32 degrees, and the temperature is predicted to remain at or below that level for the next 24 hours, according to the nearest National Weather Station for your county.
If you are getting behind in your payments, you should ask the utility company to help you. You can suggest a payment plan that works for you. You will need to pay your new bill and work on paying off your past due bills. Make sure you will be able to afford the new payment plan because if you miss a payment, the total amount you owe will become due and it will be harder to prevent a shutoff.
You can spread the really high cooling costs of summer or heating costs of winter across the entire calendar year by signing up for budget billing. With budget billing, instead of paying more when you use more, you pay roughly the same amount every month. Anyone who is current on payments can ask for budget billing for electric service (also called levelized or average payments). Also ask your utility company if you can pick the day of the month that your payments are due. Budget billing is not a discount program; it offers no savings or lower rates but will make bill paying more manageable.
Before your heat can be shut off for non-payment at any time of the year, you must receive a shutoff notice. Retail electric providers must provide you with a written Disconnect Notice. This notice must be mailed to you separately (or hand-delivered). You will have at least 10 days from the date the notice is issued to make payment arrangements. Procedures followed by gas utilities will vary. If you are receiving help from an energy assistance provider, and sufficient payment has been made, the provider can send a letter to your utility company to prevent your service from being shut off.
If turning off your electric service would make a medical condition (including MS) worse, you should submit a letter from your doctor to your utility company. This will delay any shutoff for up to 63 days, but you can re-apply. During that time you are required to develop a payment plan with the company.
Procedures on disconnection and exemptions for critical need customers vary for gas utilities and city-owned utilities. You are encouraged to contact these providers directly to avoid disconnection and make payment arrangements.
In Texas, the company that owns your electricity meter and that will disconnect your service is not the same company to whom you pay your bill. Showing your receipt for payment may not be enough to stop a scheduled disconnection.
Energy Assistance Grants
If your annual income is less than $11,963 for one person or $16,038 for a couple, or if you receive food stamps, Medicaid, TANF or SSI from the Health and Human Service Commission you may be able to get up to $1,200 to help you pay for your immediate utility expenses. How much you will get depends on your total utility costs, your income, and the size of your family. If you own your home, the money will be paid directly to your fuel supplier or utility company. If you are a renter and your utility costs are included in your rent, the money will be sent to you. To locate your local service provider and apply for assistance, call 877-399-8939.
Many electric, gas, and city-owned utilities offer assistance programs funded by voluntary contributions from customers. Contact your local utility to find out if additional assistance is offered.
You can lower your energy bills by preventing heat and air conditioning from escaping through cracks and gaps around doors and windows. If your annual income is less than $11,963 for one or $16,038 for a couple, you can apply of assistance from the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). Priority is given to the lowest income households, and to those with residents who have a disability or are elderly. This program will help you pay for energy efficiency measures, such as insulation and weather-stripping, as well as for emergency repair or replacements of your furnace. To locate the WAP service provider nearest you, call toll-free at 888-606-8889. Renters and homeowners can also contact their gas electric company for help in spending less on heat. Ask for an energy audit to look for places where heat is escaping from your home.