A new statewide program created to help Texans pay their utility bills was recently announced by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). The program is called “Texas Utility Help” (TXUH).
Bobby Wilkinson, the Executive Director of TDHCA, told NBC 5 that eligible “low-income” renters and homeowners households can receive assistance for both water and electric bills.
Wilkinson told KCBD, “It’s a new statewide program where we can help people catch up and make some future payments on their electric bill, gas, propane, and water, wastewater. It’s hot out there, and I know some people might have fallen behind and need a little extra help, so we are happy to provide them with the funds.”
For help with wastewater and water bills, applicants can have their entire past due bills paid and receive up to $600 for future payments, according to NBC 5. Applicants can also have past-due electricity, propane, and natural gas bills paid, in addition to receiving up to $2,400 for future bills.
Wilkinson said utility bills are continuing to rise and that now is a good time to give back to Texans.
The Texas Electricity Ratings reported the average summer Texas electric bill to be around $154 monthly. Wilkinson told KVEO-TV there are income limits for applicants, which are impacted by the size of the family.
To qualify for TXUH, household incomes must be at or below 150% of the federal poverty line. The maximum income for a single household depends on the number of people in it.
“It’s means-tested, so there are income limits. It’s 150% of the federal poverty level; for a family of two, that’s $27,000,” Wilkinson explained. “For a family of four, it’s $41,000, and then it goes up from there,” depending on the family size.
To be eligible, one household member must be a United States citizen or qualified immigrant. Payments for approved applicants will be sent directly to utility companies. Priority for wastewater or water payments will be given to those with services that are currently discontinued.
“We launched ‘Texas Utility Help’ to make it easier for even more Texans to access and benefit from utility assistance programs,” Wilkinson said. “The new program uses a streamlined online application process, so any eligible Texas household can apply for both energy and water bill assistance in a single form.”
Over $50 million is available through the “Texas Utility Help” program, according to the TDHCA. The funding for utility assistance comes from the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, according to the TXUH website.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program uses federal taxpayer dollars to help eligible residents with utility costs. The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program is also federally funded, with funds being disbursed through state, territorial, or tribal programs.
Funding is limited, and Texans have been asked to apply as soon as possible.
In fact, the website has a new banner added, giving the following notice to visitors on Friday: “Due to overwhelming interest in the program, we are currently not accepting new applications for energy bill assistance while we process the ones already in the queue. Applications for water and wastewater utility assistance are still being accepted.”
Other programs are available for Texans to turn to for utility payment help, including the Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program. Applicants must have financial needs and be residents of Texas to qualify.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas has the Lifeline Program, which helps qualified low-income applicants pay monthly telephone bills.