There are many people across the United States that rely on government run assistance programs to help pay their electricity bills. The primary purpose of these assistance programs is to ensure that everyone, regardless of financial income, has access to basic needs like electricity.
Texas in particular offers a few assistance programs. However, as of late there has been some confusion as to which plans continue to provide electricity consumers with assistance, and which ones have ended. One of the biggest programs we get questions about the most often is Lite-Up Texas. This assistance program is actually defunct, meaning that it no longer provides assistance to electricity customers in the state.
The good news is that thanks to Senate Bill 1976, there is another option for residents living in Texas looking for assistance with their energy bills. So, if you’re looking for an update on the status of the Lite-Up Texas program in addition to your new assistance option, you’ve come to the right place.
What was Lite-Up Texas?
Lite-Up Texas was a program that provided discounts on consumed electricity for approximately 700,000 households in Texas. Towards the beginning of fall 2016, an announcement was made that the discounts had run out and the program had ended on August 31st.
Funded through the System Benefit Fund, the primary benefit to the program was that it reduced low income family electricity bills from 25% – 31%. It was offered to residents of the state who qualified for both Medicaid and the Food Stamps Program. In addition, the program was only applicable to residents living in areas with deregulated energy. This meant that residents living in regulated cities like San Antonio and Austin did not qualify.
Unfortunately, the money available to support the program ran out. This meant that eventually, consumers accepted into the program started to see the discount drop from their bill. Today, its website no longer exists, and it is difficult to find out any information regarding the program or potential future funding.
Disappearing Discounts on Electric Bills
As you can imagine, the cancellation of the Lite-Up Texas program became an important issue for hundreds of thousands of low income families across the state. Instead of receiving their usual discount, they had to pay regular electricity rates. That being said, one of the major problems with the cancellation of the program is that not many of its funding recipients knew that the money had run out. The cancellation of the program did not give them enough time to search for alternative options.
This problem put some pressure on the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT), who has turned to the legislature for help. Their goal is to better keep residents of the state informed about energy assistance programs.
Senate Bill 1976
To try and help low income families better afford their electricity, Senate Bill 1976 was passed. This Bill allows electricity providers to offer benefits to customers with low incomes. Offers can start on September 1, 2017 and eligibility is very similar to the Lite-Up Texas Program. To apply, applicants must be enrolled in Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In addition, the name on the electricity bill must match the name of the person enrolled in Medicaid or SNAP.
SNAP: Also known as the Food Stamp Program. SNAP offers eligible, low income residents the ability to purchase food throughout the United States. The food allotment amount depends on various factors including, family size, income, and other expenses.
Medicaid: A United States funded program that offers family with limited income access to healthcare.
Low Income Benefits with Electricity Providers
According to Senate Bill 1976, starting on September 1, 2017, electricity providers in the state of Texas will offer low income families electricity related benefits. These benefits will help thousands of families to better afford their electricity in the same way that Lite-Up Texas did (until the program ended).
In regards to the types of benefit programs that electricity providers in Texas will offer to low income customers, that information is not yet available. Therefore, if you need more information, you will need to contact your electricity provider directly or stay up-to-date with news on ElectricChoice.com.