LITE-UP Texas Program
Many households across the United States rely on government-run assistance programs to help pay their electricity bills. The main aim of these programs is to guarantee everyone, regardless their financial status has access to basic needs such as electricity. Whether you’re seeking assistance for yourself or trying to help another, Texas has several options for energy-related assistance.
About Lite-Up Texas
Lite-Up Texas was one of the biggest assistance programs before it became defunct, and no longer assists electricity consumers in the state. The program itself provided discounts for roughly 700,000 electricity consumers in Texas. In the fall of 2016, it was announced that the discounts had run out and the program ceased operations on August 31st. But thanks to House Bill 1101, energy support from the Lite-Up Texas program was extended until the end of 2017.
The funds were collected by a mandatory charge on Texas electricity consumers as a part of the 1999 electricity deregulation law. Its goal was to provide qualifying low-income households with a maximum discount of 15% on their electricity bills in the hot summer months. HB 1101 ensured the balance of $328 million collected from ratepayer charges would benefit Texas’s low-income households rather than be redirected into the state’s general fund.
How it worked
Lite-Up Texas was funded through the System Benefit Fund. The main benefit to households in the program was that it reduced low-income family electricity bills from between 25% to 31%. Residents of Texas who qualified for government assistance programs such as Food Stamps Program or SNAPS and Medicaid were beneficiaries of the program. Besides, only residents living in areas with deregulated energy could apply for Lite-Up Texas program. This locked out residents living in regulated cities such as San Antonio and Austin.
Cancellation of the Lite-Up Texas Program
When the funds available to support the program were depleted, consumers within the program begun to see the discounts drop from their bill. This cancellation hit hard the hundreds of thousands of low-income families living across the state. This meant they would not receive their usual discounts and had to pay regular electricity rates.
One of the main setbacks of the program’s cancellation is that few Lite-Up Texas beneficiaries were aware that the funding had ceased. The extension of the program to the end of 2017 by Gov. Greg Abbott under House Bill 1101 gave some households’ time to seek alternative options. Besides, the cancellation put pressure on the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT), who has, in turn, turned the heat on the legislature for assistance.
Below are two alternative energy programs that offer benefits to customers with low incomes, same as the Lite-Up Texas Program.
Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP)
CEAP consists of various elements that offer different plans of assistance with energy bills. They include goal-setting and co-payments plans, assisting the disabled and elderly, retrofitting appliances, and emergency short-term assistance. Consumers can seek assistance through local distributors in all Texas counties regardless of the energy provider.
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
The aim of WAP is to help reduce bills for low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of homes, and educate consumers about energy conservation. Texas consumers can access the program regardless of provider, though there is a limit to assistance due to funding.
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