get help paying electric bill

How to Get Help Paying Electric Bill

Times are tough right now with inflation. And with rising electricity costs, it may get hard to pay your electricity bill. You can get help paying your electric bill in Texas. Here’s how.

What to Do If You Can’t Pay Your Electric Bill

If you can’t pay your electric bill, the first thing to do is call your retail electricity provider (REP). Let them know of your financial hardship. Ask for help.

There are several ways your electricity company can help with paying your electric bill in Texas. These include:

One Time Payment Arrangement. No retail electricity provider wants to disconnect or lose a good paying customer. Ask your electric company if they can give you an informal payment arrangement. See if you can pay pay a small amount now, then pay the rest in 2-3 weeks before your next bill comes out. And, ask if they can waive the late fee.

Deferred Payment Plan. If you need longer than that to pay? The Public Utility Commission of Texas requires that all REPs offer a deferred payment plan (DPP). Under a DPP, you can pay a portion of the bill now, then pay the remainder over 5 billing cycles. Just be aware that if you fail to meet your payment arrangement, the full amount may be due immediately to avoid disconnection. And, your provider may place your account on a switch hold once you make the payment arrangement. You will not be able to switch to another REP until you pay your bill in full. To qualify for a DPP, you must not have been disconnected for non-payment during the prior 12 months.

Reduced rate for electricity. Ask if you can get a lower rate for your electricity plan, in exchange for extending your contract term. It’s rare that they will do this. But if you can get a lower rate, it will help the following month. If you have a high bill because your contract has expired and you are on a month to month rate? Many companies will discount that off-contract bill if you sign up for a new fixed rate contract. It pays to make friends with the call center agent and ask nicely!

Referral to social services. Every REP maintains a donation fund that is set up to help customer’s pay their bill. They match these customer donations dollar for dollar. Then they donate these funds to local non-profits to administer the donation funds. Your REP will be able to refer you to one of these services, which usually are need-based according to your income.

LIHEAP and CEAP – Help Paying Light Bill for Low Income Texans

Texas LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) helps low income citizens pay their energy bills. You may also hear it called CEAP, or Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program. CEAP not only helps cover electricity bills but also funds home energy efficiency improvements.

Under either name, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs funds LIHEAP and CEAP. Qualifying households can receive up to $1600 in utility assistance during a 6 to 8 month period.

Non-profit organizations administer LIHEAP funds. The organization varies depending on the county and city you live in.

Here’s how to find the Texas LIHEAP low-income utility program in your area, for help paying the light bill:

  1. 211 Helpline. Call 211 or 877-541-7905 and tell the agent you need utility assistance. Once you provide your zip code, they’ll provide the name and contact information for the assistance agency in your area.
  2. 211Texas.org website. Go online and enter “utility assistance” in the search bar, then enter your zip code. You’ll get a list of resources in your area.
  3. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs website. Select “Utility Bill Payment Help,” then enter your zip code or county. You’ll get a list of resources in your area.

Once you have the name of the LIHEAP/CEAP program administer in your area, visit their website and search for “Utility Assistance Program” to apply.

To qualify for LIHEAP/CEAP, you must receive SSI or Means Tested Veterans Program payments, or have an income below a maximum threshold. Typically, you can qualify if you are within 150% of the Federal Income Poverty Guidelines. For example, a household of 4 people must have an income under $42,000 annually to qualify. This tool will help you see if you qualify.

Lite-Up Texas. The Texas Lite-Up program no longer exists and was cancelled in 2016.

Help Paying Electricity Bill if You Are Not Low Income

If you are not a low income or elderly customer, there are limited programs available to help pay your electricity bill in Texas. And that’s unfortunate. Because with inflation and higher electricity prices, everyone will have a harder time budgeting for their electricity bill.

Like we said above, your first step is always to talk to your electricity company and ask for help. That will likely include a deferred payment plan, if you have paid your bills on time in the past. You may also be able to get a simple payment extension if you can pay the bill within a couple weeks. Ask if they can waive any late fees as well.

Next, ask about your eligibility for budget billing. Also called average billing, this lets you pay the same amount each month. Most customers in Texas use more power in the summer than the winter. When you sign up for budget billing, you spread your costs across the year. That can be a big help during the summer months.

Also, find out about any energy savings tips that may help you reduce your usage. Or look into whether your REP offers a free HVAC tune-up program, available if you live in Centerpoint or AEP-Texas market area. Since cooling your home is 50% or more of your bill, focusing on this can cut your costs.

You can also look for a provider that gives you a discount or credit for energy conservation. For example, Energy Texas customers can participate in Peak Perks. You’ll get 10% off your next month’s energy charge if you reduce your usage by 10% when asked to do so.

Some providers, like Rhythm, let you pick your due date. That can help if you have the money to pay, but are just having an issue with payment timing.

Communication with your provider is key to avoiding late fees and possible disconnection.

Additional Resources
What to do if you get an electricity disconnection notice in Texas

Set up electricity without a deposit

Set up electricity with deposit waiver

Deposit alternative programs

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