Last Updated on November 20, 2023 by Mary Pressler
How to Get Help Paying for Electricity in Houston, Texas
Houston offers a wide range of assistance programs for low-income households, and there are both privately managed and publicly managed options. Through these assistance programs, households in need can cover many types of expenses, including electricity bills.
Energy Assistance Programs in Houston
Gas and electricity bills can represent a significant expense for Texan households, especially after the high inflation experienced in 2022. In this section, we summarize the main programs that can help with energy bills in the Houston metropolitan area.
Baker Ripley Utility Assistance Program
The Baker Ripley Utility Assistance Program operates in Brazoria, Galveston, and Harris counties. This program offers two main types of assistance for income-eligible households:
- Utility bill payments: Electricity, gas, and water.
- HVAC repairs and service.
Baker Ripley provides income guidelines for their Utility Assistance Program, which includes the following income thresholds:
|Income Cap ($)||20,385||27,465||34,545||41,625||48,705||55,785|
Baker Ripley also offers assistance with rent, education, employment, immigration and citizenship services, senior services, taxes and disaster recovery.
Texas Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP)
The Texas CEAP helps low-income households who are struggling with their immediate energy needs. This includes assistance during energy crisis situations caused by extreme weather and supply shortage. The program also provides energy education, helping households take control over their utility bills in the future.
The CEAP prioritizes low-income households with elderly members or disabilities, who are the most vulnerable to high energy costs. The program can pay up to 6-8 of their highest energy bills during the year, based on a vulnerability assessment. This way, the CEAP ensures energy access for space heating and cooling throughout the year. As of September 2022, the CEAP is subject to the following income thresholds.
|Income Cap ($)||20,385||27,465||34,545||41,625||48,705||55,785||62,865||69,945|
*The income cap increases by $7,080/person in households with more than 8 members.
Harris County Community Services Department
The Harris County Emergency Utility Assistance program helps households who face an imminent utility service disconnection. This program is available for households who have a utility bill from the last 30 days and a disconnect notice, subject to the following income thresholds:
|Income Cap ($)||49,600||56,700||63,800||70,850||76,550||82,200||87,900||93,550|
The Harris County Community Services Department also has a Rental Assistance program, offering one-time assistance for households with a vacate notice or a past-due mortgage payment. The Community Services Department is constantly working with federal and local agencies to secure funds for this program – funding is sometimes scarce, but new appointment slots are constantly being added.
The Rental Assistance program is subject to the same income caps as the Emergency Utility Assistance program (listed in the table above).
Public Utility Commission of Texas – Senate Bill 1976
In September 2017, Senate Bill 1976 enabled low-income assistance programs from retail electricity providers (REP). These programs vary depending on the REP, but in general, they are available for households meeting any of the following conditions:
- Being on the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP)
- Being on Medicaid
In both cases, the name of the power bill and the name of the program participant must be the same. Self-enrollment is not available – you must contact your electricity provider.
Weatherization Assistance Program
Extreme weather can be a major threat for low-income households, especially with the high gas and electricity prices being charged in 2022. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) created the Weatherization Assistance Program to help these households, which includes the following benefits:
- Free energy audits and home energy efficiency assessments.
- Installation of weatherization measures to boost energy efficiency.
The Weatherization Assistance Program is available for households with an income up to 200% of the federal poverty guideline, and they can apply by contacting their electricity provider. Higher priority is given to households with children under six, seniors, or individuals with special needs. Households with high energy costs relative to their income also get priority.
The energy audits offered through this program focus on finding air leaks and identifying inefficient appliances. Based on the results of the energy audit, the program then offers financial and technical assistance to deploy energy efficiency measures.
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Other Assistance Programs in Houston
In addition to the energy assistance programs described above, there are also programs that help with areas like phone service, healthcare, education and employment. These are summarized in the following table:
|USAC Lifeline Support||Basic telephone service payment for households at or below 150% of the federal poverty line, reducing the monthly rate up to $12.75 (without additional services like caller ID and voice messaging).
The program is also available for households meeting any of the following conditions: Medicaid, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program support, SNAP, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Health Benefit Coverage under Child Health Plan (CHIP) under Chapter 62 support, National School Lunch Program – Free Lunch Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
|Goodwill of Houston||Education assistance and career development for persons facing barriers to employment.|
|Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program||This program has provided over $290 in rental assistance for more than 73,000 households since February 2021. Assistance is available for renters with a written vacate notice or who are currently in eviction court.|
|Houston Housing Authority Affordable Housing Programs||This program has provided affordable housing for over 58,000 low-income residents. The HHA also manages the 3rd largest voucher program for homeless veterans in the US.|
|Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC)||The TSAHC offers grants for home buyers in Houston, Galveston and Beaumont. The program helps first-time and repeat buyers cover their down payments. Assistance is available for applicants with a credit score of at least 620 and meeting certain income requirements, their website has an Eligibility Quiz.|
|Hope Clinic||The Hope Clinic offers healthcare services for everyone, in 30 languages and regardless of ability to pay. They prioritize patients who are uninsured or under-insured, patients with low English proficiency, and low-income patients in general.|
|Houston Food Bank||The largest food bank in the US, providing assistance in 18 counties located in southeast Texas. The Houston Food Bank delivers over 150 million meals per year.|
|Kids Meals Inc||The Kids’ Meal program has delivered over 10.3 million free meals for children under five since 2006, focusing on low-income households. They operate across 46 ZIP codes in Harris County and Montgomery County.|
|Legacy Community Health||Federally Qualified Health Center founded in 2005, currently offering: adult primary care, pediatrics, dental care, vision services, behavioral health services, OB/GYN and maternity, vaccinations and immunizations, health promotion and community outreach, wellness and nutrition, and comprehensive HIV/AIDS care.|
|Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston||This program provides and delivers meals for 7,300 homebound seniors in five counties: Harris, Galveston, Montgomery, Liberty and Chambers. Many of the seniors who benefit from the program also get weekend meals and breakfasts.|