While all of your utilities are important, electricity provides light, cool and warm air, keeps your refrigerated and frozen food at the right temperature, and allows you to cook and do laundry. It also allows you to recharge your computer and cell phone.
Because electricity is so vital, the State of Texas is always looking for ways to ensure that residents are able to afford to keep their electricity on, even if they’re experiencing financial difficulties.
One important program designed to meet this need has been discontinued, but fortunately, another program has taken its place.
LITE-UP Texas (Discontinued)
LITE-UP Texas was started in 1999 and provided discounts to hundreds of thousands of low-income Texas residents. In fact, according to the Public Utility Commission, in 2015, the program helped 700,000 households who saw their electric bills decrease anywhere from 25% to 31%. However, the LITE-UP Texas discount 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.
But fortunately, there’s another 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 utility 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.
CEAPs goal 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 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 help to pay bills and avoid disconnection. But that’s not the only type of assistance it 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.
Especially in a crisis situation. 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 – and these devices are necessary to sustain life – this is considered a crisis situation.
“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 benefit from this 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 assistance. All of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (LIHEAPs) in the state have been integrated into CEAP. This process is more efficient and effective than having several separate programs. It also eliminates the need for residents to fill out separate paperwork for each program.
CEAP’s other component is educating residents about steps they can take to reduce their utility bills, such as weatherizing the home. Weatherization could save almost $300 a year in utility costs, according to the Department of Energy. Some of the weatherizing 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. Additional tips can be found on the TDHCA website.
“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.
As of January, 2017, household income limits for 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 program. Below is a chart of the 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, 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, 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 CEAP is a government-sponsored program, approval is also based on the availability of funds.
To find help where you live, visit the CEAP website and then click on Find Help Here, to locate the nearest CEAP office.