Sweating your utility bills? New assistance available

The only thing hotter than the temperatures outside are the utility bills that come with them.

Sky-high electric, gas, and water bills are making people sweat. But there are state and local energy assistance available to help you stay safe and cool.

RELATED: After Big Freeze blackouts, Texas power grid challenged during triple-digit heatwave

"I don’t really want to look at it because we’re so afraid," said William Powers of his family's electric bill.

No one wants to look at their utility bills right now. Electricity, water, gas, are all up, up, up.

"The price of fuel, the price of food, the price of everything else, and now electricity going up. This could legitimately mean the difference between someone paying their bills and somebody not," he said.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs just launched TexasUtilityHelp.com to help low-income Texans pay their utility bills.

"It includes all your past-due propane or gas, electric, or water, bills and going forward with energy, $2,400 in perspective payments, $600 in perspective payments for water," explained Bobby Wilkinson, TDHCA Executive Director.


The program is funded with $50 million from the American Rescue Act. Utilities will be paid directly for households that qualify.

"If you’re at 150% of the federal poverty level or below, you can qualify for energy assistance. For a family of two, that would be about $27,000, or a for a family of four, $41,000," said Wilkinson.

To apply, go to TexasUtilityHelp.com, or call (855) 566-2057.

If you don't qualify for that program, check out BakerRipley, which is issuing utility assistance with somewhat higher income limits, for residents of Harris, Galveston, and Brazoria counties. 

BakerRipley is holding a second workshop on the program on Saturday, July 23, from 9 am to 11:30 a.m. at the Aberdeen Campus at 3838 Aberdeen Way in Houston.

Plus many energy providers, such as Reliant, also offer their own energy assistance and payment plans.

RELATED: How to find, reduce wasted energy in your home amid Houston heatwave

You can also call 211, the United Way Hotline, to discover other assistance you may qualify for.

If you've fallen behind on bills, the Texas Public Utility Commission prohibits disconnections for non-payment when the National Weather Service issues advisories, like the heat advisory Houston has been under this past Friday through Monday. Electric co-ops and municipally-owned utilities are not bound by the rule, but can choose to follow it.

Meanwhile, families are trying to keep their bills down.

"We’re trying to be a lot more careful. We tell our kids to leave the lights off, don’t turn the lights on if you don’t have to," said Powers.