Electricity is essential in Texas. It allows you to cool your home during the hot summer months and warm it during cold snaps. Without power, you can’t run your fridge, cook with your stove, or keep the lights on.
So, when you’re unable to pay your electricity bill, you have a serious problem.
When you get service from a power company, you are agreeing to a simple exchange. Your electricity provider will supply reliable power to your home and you will pay the company for the service.
Unfortunately, that means you have to keep up with your side of the agreement to get the power you need. If you can’t pay your bill, the provider has the right to shut off your electricity.
Thankfully, Texans have several options for utility assistance. Keep reading to learn how you can keep the power on in times of financial hardship.
According to Texas law, electricity providers can shut off your power 10 days after your bill’s due date. Before turning it off, however, they must mail you a written (or emailed, if you have agreed upon this method of communication previously) disconnection notice, which can only be dated as early as the first day after your bill’s due date
This notice must include:
- Why they are shutting your power off
- What you can do to avoid disconnection
- Any disconnection and reconnection charges you will have to pay
- How much you owe
- How to make a payment on your overdue bill
- How your deposit, if you’ve paid one, will be used to cover your outstanding balance
- Any government relief programs that can help low-income customers pay the outstanding amount
- How the company will pursue the payment if you don’t make it before the shut-off date
Once you receive this notice, you will have 10 days to pay your bill before your provider shuts off your electricity. The due date cannot be on a holiday or the weekend unless the company is open and able to take payments on those days.
You may have to pay a late fee along with the original amount, even if you make the payment before the shut-off date. This fee is set by the power company and may vary.
This process also applies if you don’t pay any deposits on time.
What can I do if I can’t pay my energy bill in Texas?
No one wants to fall behind on their utility bills, but sometimes your circumstances are out of your control. When you’re facing hard times, you may be able to get financial assistance for your electricity bills. Every option has specific requirements, so explore each program to see if you qualify.
1. Reach out to your power company
Your energy provider knows that its customers may need help paying their bills from time to time. It likely has several options that can help cover or delay your payments without turning off your electricity.
You should contact the company as soon as you know that you won’t be able to pay your next power bill. Get in touch with your provider to ask about:
- Payment extensions – Once you explain your circumstances, your provider may agree to give you more time to make your payment. The length of your extension, as well as if they even offer one, is up to the company.
- Deferred payment plans – If you’re unable to make the full payment, even with an extension, the company will offer deferred payment plans. You will work with your provider to set up payments in installments. You will have more time to pay any outstanding balances, as well as the ability to make smaller payments.
- Deposit options – Some power companies require security deposits before they start providing service. Your provider may waive this fee, split it into smaller payments, or offer an extension to customers who qualify for assistance.
Most power companies are happy to work with customers who are going through a tight spot. That said, they don’t have to offer all of these options. As stressful as it may be to navigate these situations, remain polite and courteous to the representatives you speak to. They may be willing to go the extra mile for you if you’re friendly.
You should also do your best to make every payment on time when you’re able. When you’re a reliable customer, you may get more help when you need it.
2. Explore local, state, and federal assistance programs
On your disconnection notice, your electric company is required to list organizations that can help pay your overdue balance. These programs can help in a variety of ways. They’re also not the only options.
Research local, state, and federal organizations that help with power bill payments. Some options for Texans include:
- Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) – This utility assistance program helps low-income families cover immediate electricity costs. It also helps recipients reduce their energy costs so they can afford their service more reliably in the future.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – Similar to CEAP, this program pays heating and cooling energy costs for low-income households. Along with bill payments, they assist with energy-related home repairs and weatherization.
- Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) – This organization helps low-income households lower and control energy costs through home repairs and improvements. It doesn’t cover direct payments, but it can help with ongoing costs.
Your electricity provider may provide its own program for low-income and/or elderly customers. Visit its website or call the company to see what it offers.
3. Ask about SNAP or Medicaid benefits
Under Texas law, power companies can offer exclusive benefits to customers enrolled in the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) or on Medicaid. Each company can choose whether or not to offer this benefit, as well as its details. If you are eligible for these programs and actively enrolled, ask your power company about their low-income benefit.