Energy is so vital to running a household, between providing light, cool and warm air, preserving food at the right temperature, and giving the ability to cook and do laundry. Because of this, the State of Texas is always looking for ways to ensure that households can afford to keep their electricity services on, even if they’re experiencing financial difficulties and need assistance with paying their utility bill. While LITE-UP Texas, an important energy assistance program designed to meet this community need, has been discontinued, Texas residents are fortunate enough to have the Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) take its place in the community.
LITE-UP Texas: A Discontinued Energy Assistance Program
LITE-UP Texas, an energy assistance program, was started in 1999 and provided discounts to hundreds of thousands of low-income households in Texas. According to the Public Utility Commission, the energy assistance program helped 700,000 households in 2015 who saw their utility bills decrease anywhere from 25% to 31%. However, the LITE-UP Texas energy assistance program ended in August 2016. Exactly one year later, in August 2017, the LITE-UP
Texas Late Penalty Waiver Benefits and Deposit Installment Benefits ended as well.
Fortunately for every community member in Texas with a low household income that relies on the state’s energy assistance programs, there’s another comprehensive energy assistance program designed to help Texas residents who may have difficulty paying their utility bill.
Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP)
The Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) is another energy assistance program in the state. “The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), originally known as the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP), was created in 1980 in response to rising energy costs in the 1970s,” according to Kristina Tirloni, media relations/senior communications advisor at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).
“In 1981 when LIEAP was replaced with LIHEAP, it included CEAP as a part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act,” Tirloni tells Payless Power. “CEAP is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, which distributes funds to each of the fifty states, U.S. territories and tribal governments each year.”
Tirloni says that Texas’ allotment of federal dollars is directed through TDHCA to a network of 37 subgrantees who then work to help eligible low-income households across the state.
Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP): Goals for Helping Low-Income Residents
The goal of the Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) is to help low-income residents in two ways: it helps them meet their energy needs, and it also provides information to help them implement energy efficiency saving tips.
“In Fiscal Year 2017, nearly $94.5 million was used to help 134,465 households in the state,” Tirloni says. “Funds are used to provide utility cost assistance up to $1,200, but depending on the situation, it could be more.”
A part of helping Texas residents to meet their energy needs involves assistance to pay utilities. This includes helping to pay utility bills and avoid disconnection. But that’s not the only type of assistance the energy program provides. “Vulnerable households in need may be provided portable heating/cooling units, and in certain situations eligible households may receive HVAC repairs for non-functional units,” Tirloni says.
Another component of the Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) is educating residents about steps they can take to reduce their utility bills, such as implementing weatherization of their home. Weatherization could fuel savings of almost $300 a year in utility costs, according to the Department of Energy. Some weatherization efficiency tips include caulking around doors and windows, which can prevent air from seeping in. Also, using ceiling fans in the summer can help lower the room’s temperature, while reversing the direction of the fan in the winter can help circulate warm air.
“Some households may also be eligible to receive additional assistance for weatherization,” Tirloni says. This could include help to caulk, patch holes in the dwelling, add insulation, and even repair or replace inefficient heating and cooling systems.
Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP): Qualifying Circumstances
Community residents who are in a crisis situation qualify for the Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP). CEAP defines a crisis situation as a life-threatening situation in which at least one person in the household would be adversely affected due to a shut-off notice or because a delivered fuel source is below a 10-day supply. For example, if this would negatively affect kidney dialysis machines, cardiac monitors, oxygen concentrators, all of which are necessary to sustain life, then a crisis situation has been established and energy assistance can be implemented.
“Households with seniors, persons with disabilities, or families with children under the age of 6 are given priority in the qualification process,” Tirloni explains.” During a weather crisis, extremely high temperatures in the summer or freezing temperatures in the winter, eligible households may receive additional financial assistance.”
Other residents who can access benefits from this energy assistance program include those with a high energy burden and/or high energy consumption. A high energy burden household is defined as a household in which the energy costs exceed 11% of annual gross income. A high energy consumption household is defined as a household that is billed more for the use of electricity in their dwelling unit than the median of low-income home energy expenditures.
CEAP has also made it easier for qualified residents to find energy assistance. Every Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the state have been integrated into the Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP). This process encourages efficiency and is more effective than having several separate energy assistance programs. It also eliminates the need for residents to fill out separate paperwork for each energy assistance program.
Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP): Requirements and Eligibility
As of January 2017, household income limits for the Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) increased from 100% of Federal Poverty Income Guidelines to 150% of Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. For example, the previous income limit for a family of four was $25,100; however, the limit is now $37,160. By increasing the income limit, more individuals and families in need will be able to qualify for the energy assistance program. Below is a chart of the Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) income limits for the 2018 Program Year.
|Persons in Family/Household||150% of Federal Poverty Guidelines|
|For families with more than 8 people||Add $6,480 for each additional person|
To be eligible for the energy assistance program, applicants will need to show proof of citizenship. This can include one of the following: a birth certificate, Texas Election Identification Certificate (EIC), passport, proof of residency, or current voter registration card. Proof of income (for the last 30 days) must also be presented, in addition to copies of the most recent utility bills.
Applicants will need to complete an application, which they can email, fax, or send by mail. Be sure to complete all of the information on the application, since incomplete forms may result in the application being rejected or at least delayed. Since the Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) is a government-sponsored program, approval is also based on the availability of funds.