Soaring Temperatures Prompt City And Reliant Energy To Open Cooling Centers

With rising temperatures indicating a hot summer, the City of Houston has opened "beat the heat" centers for low income and seniors to cool off. The city's largest energy provider will assist people who may have trouble paying their summer electric bills.

Statistics show that heat kills more people than any weather related event, more than flooding from hurricanes, or lightning and tornadoes. Doctors say children and the elderly are most at risk for heat related illnesses. Houston state Rep. Sylvester Turner says many of his constituents are on fixed incomes.

"What we've discovered is that a lot of seniors, because they are fearful of their monthly utility bills, will not turn on their air conditioning units, even when their air conditioning units are working, because they're more fearful of the bill in many cases than the heat. But we discovered that the heat can really have a detrimental impact on your lives. And so I would rather for you to turn on your air than not to turn it on."

Turner talked about the System Benefit Fund, that's a dedicated fund administered by the Public Utility Commission to help low income residents with their summer electricity bills.

"All of the money that's being banked in the system benefit fund — that you pay on your monthly utility bills anyway — to assist poor people, low income people. All of those dollars over the next three years will be going back to the intended population. Which means that in September if you have for example a hundred dollar electricity bill in September, then you're gonna get a credit on your electricity bill of roughly 80 percent."

Elizabeth Killinger, president of Reliant Energy says the utility is helping customers pay their electric bills.

"Half of our charitable giving actually goes to helping customers pay their bills. And since 2005, we've donated $6 million to actually help consumers with their bills, because we know it's tough during the summertime. We also have special dedicated agents that can help customers who don't know exactly what to do, or where to go to get assistance their electricity bills." 

She says Reliant has earmarked nearly $800,000 in bill payment assistance that's available through the city's Department of Health and Human Services.

"Beat the Heat Centers" offer children a lunch and an afternoon snack. The centers are open now until October 4th.

 

Beat the Heat Centers locations:

City of Houston Multi-Service Centers (MSC), (Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.)

 Acres Homes MSC, 6719 W. Montgomery, 832.393.4145

 Denver Harbor MSC, 6402 Market St., 713.670.2100

 Northeast, 9720 Spaulding, 713.491.5500

 Sunnyside MSC, 4605 Wilmington St., 713.732.5030

 Hiram Clarke MSC, 3810 W. Fuqua, 713.433.2720

Houston Neighborhood Centers

 Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center, 6500 Rookin Street, 713.677.9400

 Independence Heights Neighborhood Center, 205 W. Crosstimbers, 713.691.1393

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...