NEWS: Thousands of Texans Call the State Every Day for Help with Utility Payments
April 15, 2020
KXAN's Kevin Clark discusses high call volumes for customers seeking enrollment in the PUC's Electricity Relief Program.
Originally Aired Here.
AUSTIN – The Public Utility Commission of Texas is getting 10,000 to 13,000 calls a day from utility customers around the state concerned about keeping their power on and water running.
The Commission’s COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program aims to offset a portion of customers’ unpaid bills, using a new charge.
Andrew Barlow, Director of External Affairs at the Commission, says customers of most private utilities in the state will pay in.
Barlow said the difference is usually less than a dollar per month, he said.
KXAN’s Investigative Team has heard from dozens of Texans concerned about how they’ll pay for utilities in the coronavirus economy.
A Williamson County woman tells us Infinite Energy shut off her power this week, so she paid to have it turned back on.
She said she’s unemployed, but knew she was in a better position than a lot of other people to cover her unpaid bill.
“It just surprised me they would cut things off that quickly for $46.87,” she said.
Infinite Energy says it began reaching out to customers about the availability of deferred payments in late March.
“We’re reaching out to customers every day,” a spokesperson told KXAN. “We’ve also been in close communication with the PUC, utilities, and others working on overall solutions for the market, though our focus is ensuring our customers are taken care of.”
Infinite Energy is one of the many companies the Public Utility Commission of Texas oversees, so it falls under the commission’s order from last month, which orders companies to cease shutoffs for customers in the Electricity Relief Program.
Barlow says late fees are waived for residential and small commercial customers, but unless those customers enroll in the relief program, they’ll still be responsible for their entire bill.
He told KXAN customers should also reach out to their utility regarding a deferred payment plan.
To call about enrollment in the Commission’s Relief Program, call (866) 454-8387 or go to txcovid19erp.org.