The Public Utility Commission of Texas has ordered commission-regulated utility companies to suspend disconnections of water services for nonpayments and created a relief program to prevent disconnection of electricity services for those experiencing hardships due to COVID-19.
The order is in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration for Texas and the economic hardships that Texans may face because of the disease outbreak, according to an announcement posted on the Public Utility Commission website.
“These efforts are intended to help those Texans in genuine financial distress as a result of COVID-19, when their utility bills will literally break their family budget,” according to the announcement.
Commission regulated water and sewer utilities are to immediately suspend disconnections for nonpayments, according to the announcement. Electricity providers outside the Electric Reliability Council of Texas are to suspend disconnections for nonpayments as well.
A new program called the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Plan will order retail electricity providers in areas of Texas to immediately offer a deferred payment plan to any residential customer who requests one and suspend disconnections for residential customers that have been added to the state’s unemployment and low-income list because of COVID-19.
If an individual qualifies for unemployment benefits, they can contact the state's Low Income List Administrator to request enrollment in the program, according to the announcement. If approved, the individual's retail electricity provider will be notified to not disconnect the power.
Per the commission order, retail electric providers can’t disconnect electricity for up to six months if the individual is added to the relief program.
The cost for this will be a combination of other paying customers through a new monthly fee, losses absorbed by retail electricity providers and eventually the individual in a deferred payment plan to recover any remaining amount, according to the announcement.