Central Texas programs help lower cost of high summer water, electric bills

Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 6:37 PM CDT
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CENTRAL, Texas (KWTX) - August utility bills are starting to come out across Central Texas and high utility bills from the summer months can put a strain on some families in the area.

The good news is there are multiple local resources to help lower those bills.

The City of Waco’s partnership with the Texas Utility Help Program is here to help with the high water bills. It’s specifically for low income homeowners and renters.

”As people know with government assistance programs they have that pool of money and they really want it to go into the hands of people who need it,” Jessica Emmett Sellers, City of Waco spokesperson, said.

To qualify Texas residents must be at or below 150% below the federal poverty line.

“If they do qualify you not only get a credit for your past due balance, you also get $85 for every month left in the calendar year,” Emmett Sellers said.

Local nonprofits like Helping Hands Ministry and the Hill Country Community Action Association can also help with not only high water bills, but also electric bills.

To qualify for aid from the Hill Country Community Action Association, you have to be 150% below the federal poverty line.

”The priority households that we try to target first are households with members that are 60 and older, households with someone 5 or younger or ones with a disability,” Ashley Johnson, Hill Country Community Action Association CEO, said.

Helping Hands Ministry doesn’t necessarily have income-based requirements for their assistance programs. Instead the nonprofit takes a holistic approach when looking at applicants.

”What we’re looking at is there a crisis that caused you to be in this situation?” Christa Ochoa,  Helping Hands Ministry Director of Program and Services, said. “Was it a one time crisis? Is it a reoccurring crisis? What can we do to make it not be a reoccurring crisis?”

Nonprofit leaders say anyone struggling to pay their water or electric bill should immediately reach out for assistance.

”I would encourage anyone that needs to just see what’s out there because we have a lot of community partners as well that can stand in the gap,” Johnson said.

The City of Waco Water Utility Department also has a partnership with Caritas where residents can set up recurring monthly donations. The donations will go directly towards caritas to help people who may need financial assistance with their water bill. To inquire about that program or the Texas Utility Help program call the city’s water call center at 254-299-CITY.

Caritas offers assistance on TXU Energy, Ambit Energy, Reliant Energy, Direct Energy, Tri-Eagle Energy electric bills. Anyone needing help should call the organization’s main number 254-753-4593.

The City of Killeen also offers water utility assistance for seniors on a fixed income under the Senior Citizen Utility Bill Assistance Program. Anyone interested in applying should reach out to the city at 254-501-7800.

To inquire about assistance at the Hill Country Community Action Association visit the nonprofit’s website or call a local center like the Bell County Help Center at 254-549-081.

As previously mentioned, Helping Hands Ministry helps with both water and electric bills through Reliant Energy, TXU Energy, Ambit Energy and Triangle Energy. More specific information on how to apply can be found on their website.

The Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco also offers assistance with utility payments on the second Monday of the month. Anyone needing assistance should call the office at 8:30 a.m. on that day at 254-537-9096.