AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the 100 degree days continue, the air conditioner could be running on overdrive. For Austinites who are having trouble affording their bill, Austin Energy customers are not expected to pay higher rates this time of year when the demand for AC is high. The city is now letting go of the seasonal base rates in an effort to keep the city affordable. The utility company is also meeting with more than 100 non-profits Tuesday to help even more people pay their bills.
During Austin Energy’s annual Policy Summit, more than 130 non-profits, churches and organizations that work with low-income residents will let the utility company know what’s working for their clients and what’s not. Right now, more than 37,000 customers qualify for the discount programs that give them an average savings of about $250 per year from Austin Energy. These discount programs are funded by an added fee on most customers’ bills.
“The community benefit charge is basically a charge on every Austin Energy bill of .00172 cents per kilowatt hour, basically a $1.72 per month for the average customer to help fund these programs,” says Ronnie Mendoza, manager of customer assistance at Austin Energy.
That charge adds up to about $10 million every year in funding. Discounts include waivers of the Electric Customer Service Charge, Water Service Customer Charge, the Water Tiered Fixed Charge and the Wastewater Customer Service Charge. The discounts also include a 10 percent discount on total electrical usage, a discount on the Community Benefit Charge, a Water Volume Charge discount and a 50 percent discount on the Drainage Fee.
- On KXAN News Today, Kate Weidaw explains how customers can seek assistance if needed.
To be eligible for the CAP discount program a customer must participate in one of the following programs:
- Medicaid Program
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Telephone Lifeline Program
- Travis County Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP)
- Medical Access Program (MAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH)
“We have a variety of programs that are available to our low-income customers. We have discount programs that provide a monthly discount to their utility bill, we also have an emergency financial assistance program that is distributed out by our network of partners,” says Mendoza.
According to a city memo dated May 2, nearly 500 AE customers are enrolled as Medically Vulnerable Registered customers. These customers have a household member requiring life support equipment or with a challenging medical condition. The program’s purpose is to provide additional notice in the event of pending service interruptions and provide these customers additional time to pay their bills. As of May, 22 MVR households have accrued “significant outstanding debt.” The utility company says no participating MVR account has been disconnected for non-payment since 2012.
In early 2016, KXAN reported there were customers living in million dollar homes who were receiving the CAP discounts—in some cases, the customers didn’t know they were receiving the discount. The city implemented several steps to rectify the problem.
Austin Energy also provides free classes to teach the public how to conserve energy in an effort to lower their electric bill. To apply for help, click here.