Electricity Help for Low-Income

The summer months are here. As the temperature climbs so do electric bills. Today Reliant Energy announced a moratorium on disconnections for eligible customers. Also, the state has brought back a program that provides discounts for low-income families. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker has more.

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The disconnect moratorium will be in affect from July first through September 30th. It'll apply to seniors and other families where the household income is 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, they would have to have an annual income below $25,800. Reliant Energy's Matt Benner:

"Last year we helped about 15,000 people with the moratorium that was in place. This one is longer and we've got a better ability to announce it and to help people so we're not sure exactly how many we'll have."

Families have to contact Reliant to be a part of the extended payment option for the disconnect moratorium to apply. Depending on the individual situation, families will pay 25 to 33 percent of the bill after September 30th and have five billing cycles to pay the balance. Houston City Councilmember Peter Brown says as many as 500,000 people in the city live at or below the poverty line.

"So the number of people who are affected by the inability to afford their utility bills is a half-a-million people and this is something we have to work on."

ACORN has been pushing for disconnect moratoriums. Toni MacElroy says her group has gone to the Public Utility Commission asking them to require such programs across the state.

"This is a great first step to protect low-income consumers this summer. We will continue to push the PUC to require all retail providers to have a moratorium program."

PUC spokesperson Terry Hadley says the petition for a statewide moratorium is pending before commissioners. He says they did not act on it yet during their last meeting for two reasons. First, the summer so far has been mild. Second, the state legislature once again has funded the Systems Benefit Fund which provides electricity discounts to low-income families. Hadley says most families are automatically enrolled.

"If there is a computer match those customers automatically will receive the low income discount. For those who don't automatically get it, beginning Monday, July 2nd, there will be a toll-free number these customer can call to establish themselves for the low-income discount."

And that number that will be active starting Monday is 1-800-241-7011. There also will be an on-line application that can be accessed through KUHF-dot org.Hadley says based on average summer-time electricity use, low-income families save about $20 to $30. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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Capella Tucker

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Capella Tucker joined KUHF in the spring of 1994 as a part-time reporter. She quickly gained a full-time position when she took over production duties for

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