Electric bill help is already here

March 12, 2009 5:54:04 PM PDT
It may be cool now, but this is Houston and you know the heat is right around the corner.That means big power bills as people crank up the air conditioner. But this year, paying that bill may be tough for a lot of people. Fortunately help is on the way.

Mickey Washington says he was hit with three months of electricity bill charges all at once in December because of Hurricane Ike. Since then he has been struggling to pay the bill that has climbed to more than $1,700.

Today Washington is getting at least some assistance from the Christian Community Service Center but he still has to come up with more than $300 soon.

While Washington searches for more aid now, there is help coming for those who may not be able to pay high summer time bills. The Public Utilities Commission's Lite Up Texas program gives a 15% discount to those enrolled. If you get food stamps or Medicaid, you are already enrolled, but others have to enroll themselves.

"If you got it last year and you don't have Medicaid or food stamps, then you need to fill out an application again this year," said Ellen Seaton with the Harris County Social Services.

Seaton says it's important to get enrolled now.

"The discounts start in May so you want to get it as soon as possible," she advised.

The Harris County Office of Social Services also offers electricity help beyond the Lite Up Texas program.

"We have emergency financial assistance for people with disconnect notices on either their lights, gas, or water bills," Seaton said.

Another place to get help is the United Way.

"All they have to do is dial 2-1-1," said David Jobe with the agency. "We have people here 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Even though summer has not yet arrived, an increase in need is already here.

The aid agencies we spoke with all say they expect to see more people needing help this year because of job losses and the economy in general.

We have the details of the income requirements and the phone numbers for assistance on my consumer blog.

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