Working Directly with a Retail Electric Provider
Customers having trouble paying their electric bill should contact their electric provider to learn what options are available. A customer’s Retail Electric Provider (REP) (the company that sends their electric bill each month) may be able to help customers with a deferred payment plan or other flexible payment arrangement, which can reduce the burden for households facing difficult financial times by spreading balances out over time. The REP may have other options to help as well. Customers served by electric co-ops, municipally-owned utilities and vertically-integrated utilities should also contact their providers for available options.
Enrolling in the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program
The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) enacted the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program (ERP) to support Texans in financial distress due to the economic effects of COVID-19. Customers in the parts of the state open to retail customer choice who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid benefits are automatically enrolled if the recipient of the benefits is the electric customer, and customers who have a person in their household who qualifies for unemployment benefits may enroll in the ERP. The ERP suspends disconnections for non-payment for qualified customers while the program is in effect. Customers qualifying based on unemployment benefits must affirmatively enroll in the program, and enrollment is currently scheduled to close along with the program on August 31, 2020.
How to Enroll
- Contact the Texas Lifeline at 866-454-8387 or txcovid19erp.org.
- Provide proof of unemployment status and customer information.
- Customers should continue to pay what they are able and honor terms of any deferred payment agreement they have with their electric provider.
Customers served by electric co-ops, municipal utilities and vertically-integrated utilities are not eligible for the ERP, but should still contact their electric provider directly to inquire about disconnection relief or other available assistance options.
Applying for Special Designation for Certain Medical Circumstances
The PUC allows customers to request designation as “critical care” or “chronic condition,” with the approval of a physician. The designations afford certain special treatment regarding disconnection of service. To qualify, there must be a person with a physician-diagnosed serious medical condition in the home that is dependent upon: a) an electric-powered medical device to sustain life; or b) an electric-powered medical device or electric heating or cooling to prevent impairment of a major life function. The application form is ultimately submitted to the Transmission & Distribution utility, and can be found here: https://www.puc.texas.gov/industry/electric/forms/critical/ccform.pdf.
Finding Bill Payment Assistance Through 2-1-1
If customers need assistance paying their electricity bill, they can call 2-1-1 or visit 211texas.org and search for ‘Electricity Bill Assistance’ to find programs in their area. The 2-1-1 database is extensive, and can help connect customers in need with multiple organizations that may be able to help.