HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- New numbers show how many Houstonians are struggling to keep the lights on, and for those who are, there are millions of dollars in assistance that's available.
Whether it's struggling to make one payment during the year, keeping the thermostat at safe temperatures, or having to decide between food, medicine, or utilities, Houston's numbers are above the national average.
The ABC13 data team found that 26% of Houstonians struggled to pay at least one power bill during the year, which is higher than in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. The data also revealed that 36% of Houstonians had to either reduce or cut back on food or medicine to help pay for utilities.
"It's upsetting, but we still have to pay. Otherwise, it's hot, and we wouldn't have any air. And I'm not going to sweat like a dog living in the house," Houston resident Charleen Jones said. "You just have to pay it."
ABC13's data team discovered that power problems are disproportionately worse on others. Households making under $25,000, and don't have a high school diploma are twice as likely to be unable to pay the power bill.
If someone in the house loses a job, they're three times as likely to be unable to pay the bill. Households with kids are twice as likely to be unable to pay the power bill as those without children.
Black and Hispanic households are twice as likely as white Americans to choose power over food or medicine.
"I have some kids and (they also have kids). Sometimes it's hard for them to pay the bills," Houston resident Ana Maldonado said.
"If you have a need and you're having to make decisions about whether you need to buy food, medication, or pay your electricity bill, there are resources in the community that are available to you," Glynniece Herron, Glynniece Herron, BakerRipley's utility assistance operations manager, explained, explained.
One of those resources is at BakerRipley. There's an income-based, federally-funded program. Neighbors can receive more than $2,000 to cover utility bills.
"The $2,400 in assistance is what would be for the future, but (if you have a rear amount), or back pay that you owe, or that's due, that can be covered as well," Herron said.
A recent federal report shows electricity costs are 15% more than this time last year. Experts don't expect it to drop much anytime soon.
"It makes me want to just turn my power off when I leave," Humble resident Gail White said.
If you need help paying your bills, call 211 or reach out to BakerRipley to ask about the utility assistance program.