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On March 26th, 2020, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas responded to COVID-19's impact on Texas's utility customers. This included the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program, which ensures Texan's severely affected by COVID-19 can keep the lights on during the pandemic.
The relief program applies only to areas with the power to choose in Texas, i.e., areas with retail electricity competition.
What is the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program?
The COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program is designed to support Texans who may not be able to pay their electricity bills because of COVID-19.
There are three parts to the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program:
- Deferred Payment – Texas Retail Electricity Providers (REPs) must immediately offer a deferred payment plan to residential customers that request one.
- Suspended Disconnections – REPs cannot disconnect electricity from residents added to the state's unemployment and low-income list as a result of COVID-19.
- Suspended Late Fees – Late fees are suspended until May 15th, 2020 for all customers.
Do I Qualify For Texas's COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program?
This depends on the part of the program.
All residential customers qualify for requests for deferred payment and suspended late fees. If you feel that you may have trouble paying your full electricity bill because of COVID-19, you can contact your REP. They must provide a deferred payment plan, meaning you won't pay the full amount of electricity on your next bill, but you will have to pay for all the electricity you used at some point in the future.
You can qualify for suspended electricity disconnections if these two conditions apply to you.
- You must qualify for state unemployment benefits.
- You must, as the PUC states, be in "genuinely dire economic straits as a result of COVID-19."
You don't automatically qualify if you are on unemployment. You must apply separately for the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program.
How Do I Get On The COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program List?
You can either contact the state's Low Income List Administrator at 866-454-8387 (taking calls 24/7), or you can fill out the application on this webpage.
The PUC of Texas asks you to contact your REP first for a deferred payment program. If that is still not enough, then you should apply.
After you apply, you will need to provide documentation for your qualification of unemployment benefits within 30 days. After, you will officially be on the list.
Will I Still Have To Pay For The Electricity I Use?
Again, if you have a deferred payment plan and are not on the relief list, you will have to pay for all the electricity you used at one point down the line. You just don't need to pay for all the electricity you used on your next bill.
If you are on the relief list, it depends. After you don't make your payment, your REP will likely contact the state for assistance. The state will then pay all or a portion of your electricity bill. (A new Texas-wide delivery charge of 0.033 per kilowatt-hour is funding this relief.)
You have to pay any additional costs not covered by the state or your REP.