ABILENE, Texas - If you get help paying your energy bills through the LITE-UP Texas program, you will be seeing a lot of changes in the coming months as funding for the program drops off.
The program provides discounts on electric bills for qualifying Texans with low-incomes and decisions made in the last legislative session will gradually phase out the program.
"[In] the last legislative session, there was a vote that was taken that [legislators] wanted to suspend this program and they wanted to use the funds for its intended purpose," Kim Campbell with TXU Energy explained. "So the intended purpose was to provide a discount for low-income—those that qualify for SNAP and Medicaid—and so the way that they worked that is the program is going to be completely finished…so no more funding into the program."
Previously, qualified individuals got a 10 percent discount on their bills. That discount went up to 82 percent for the month of September in 2013. For May to August 2014, the discount will again be 82 percent; however, the discount will drop to 15 percent for September 2014. It is not yet clear what the future holds for any left over funding in 2015.
"[Legislators are] predicting 15% next year but when the legislative session will meet again, I think they'll look at what's been spent out of the fund and possibly reallocate those dollars a little bit," Campbell said. "So we're not sure what next year will be, but at this time the LITE-UP Texas program is essentially finished."
Campbell said since the future of the program is unclear, it is crucial for everyone who is eligible to enroll for the discounts before the funding runs out.
According to Mary Cooksey with United Way, if you're already enrolled in programs like SNAP and Medicaid you can be automatically enrolled in the LITE-UP program. If you qualify but are not enrolled, sign up by May 1st at the latest.
Rolling Plains Management Corporation also provides assistance to people in need through the LITE-UP program. A spokesman, Joel Hutsell, said the program allows Rolling Plains to help more people; however, funding for their Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program should still allow them to help people once funding for the LITE-UP program runs out.
"When the LITE-UP Texas goes down to like 15 percent, and starts trimming off, we'll be there to help those clients and assist them with utility assistance," Hutsell said.
And TXU's $5 million donation to its own aid program will match other donations to provide help for customers in crisis.
"For every dollar given, we'll give $5 so $6 comes right back to the local community from where it's given," Campbell said.
You can also call 211 for assistance.
For information on how to enroll in the LITE-UP program, call 1-866-454-8387 or click here.
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