The Texas Public Utility Commission has extended the state’s Electricity Relief Program through Aug. 31. The program, which was originally scheduled to end on July 17, helps low-income and out-of-work Texans pay their electricity bills.
“This pandemic has presented Texas with a dynamic set of challenges that require us to be flexible and nimble in our approach,” said PUC Chair DeAnn Walker. “While we certainly wish we could snap our fingers and make this virus go away, it’s clearly with us for the long haul, and we need to reflect that in our decisions.”
Initially created by a commission order on March 26, the program is funded by a 0.033 cents per kilowatt hour charge added to electricity bills.
The program provides up to about four cents per kilowatt hour of reimbursement for energy costs and another four cents for delivery and transmission fees. Consumers are required to pay for any portion of the bill that exceeds those levels.
“It’s clear that the transaction costs of moving the dates are fairly low, so we can and should remain flexible on the duration of the program,” said Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea. “Since the government is essentially ordering people not to work for the time being, it makes sense to extend the ERP.”
To date, more than 106,000 Texans have enrolled in the program either online or by phone. When SNAP and Medicaid participants are added in, the total number of Texas households receiving assistance jumps to 560,000. Far more people are believed to be eligible but have not applied.