As the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) winds down the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program on October 1, 2020, the Office of Public Utility Counsel is encouraging residential consumers that are enrolled in the program to contact their Retail Electric Provider to arrange a payment plan or request a deferred payment plan to avoid disconnection of electricity service.
“The COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program has provided assistance to approximately 600,000 low-income and financially impacted residential consumers across the state to help them maintain their electricity service during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chief Executive and Public Counsel, Lori Cobos stated. “With the program ending on October 1st, it is imperative for residential consumers who still owe a balance on their electricity bill to contact their Retail Electric Provider to arrange a payment plan or request a deferred payment plan to avoid electricity service disconnection.”
In areas of the state that are open to retail electric competition, Texas residents on the state’s lowincome list who receive SNAP or MEDICAID benefits were automatically enrolled in the program and residents who experienced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic could enroll in the program by providing required documentation from the Texas Workforce Commission. The deadline to enroll in the program was August 31, 2020. Based on the PUCT’s orders, Retail Electric Providers may begin initiating electricity service disconnections for non-payment on October 1, 2020.
“Residential consumers who are currently enrolled in the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program and still owe an outstanding balance on their electricity bill should be aware that their provider can disconnect their electricity service for non-payment starting on October 1st,” Lori Cobos stated. “OPUC wants consumers to be aware of the program’s expiration and to encourage them to make payment arrangements with their provider so they do not lose their electricity service.”
The PUCT’s moratorium on electricity service disconnections for Texas residents in non-competitive areas of the state outside of ERCOT also expired on August 31, 2020, impacting residential consumers served by SWEPCO, Southwestern Public Service, El Paso Electric, and Entergy Texas. OPUC recommends that these consumers contact their respective company to make payment arrangements if they have an outstanding balance on their electricity bill to avoid electricity service disconnection.
Texas residents who are seeking financial assistance to help pay their electricity bill may contact local community organizations, including the Texas Information and Referral Network by dialing 2-1-1 or visiting http://www.211texas.org/. Consumers may also visit http://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/texans.htm and click Utility Bill Payment Help to view community assistance service providers in their county.