January 13, 2017 – Texas has ended the Lite-Up Texas program, which provided energy assistance to nearly 700,000 low-income households in 2015. According to the Public Service Commission (PSC), the program covered 25 to 31 percent of these households’ electricity bills.
Lawmakers created the Lite-Up program in 1999, funded by ratepayers across Texas to assist low-income households on the state’s newly deregulated electricity market. Texans who received Medicaid or food stamps were eligible for the Lite-Up program.
In 2013, the Legislature ended the 65-cents-per-megawatt-hour surcharge that fueled the program, leading to the depletion of funds in 2016, and therefore initiating the dissolution of the program.
Ofelia Zapata, of Austin Interfaith and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said that the Texas Legal Services Center has crafted a bill to restore the program, but they need a lawmaker to carry it in the coming legislative session.
“This new political landscape—it’s going to be cutting everything”, said Zapata. “These are basic needs.”
The elimination of the Lite-Up Texas program is especially devastating for some residents, who depended on the Lite-Up Texas program for assistance.
Fifty-nine-year-old Arlington, TX resident Mary Garcia said, “Please, I beg you to bring back this assistance with electricity. I am going to freeze this cold season.”
Garcia struggles to work and depends on disability payments, due to crippling headaches that led to a brain aneurysm in October 2015. “How could they do that?” she said. “I really depended on it.”
Sharon Litke, vice president for Penstar Power, said, “Certainly, Lite-Up has hit our clients hard, and a lot of our clients have just fallen on bad times. Our heart just goes out to them, honestly.”
Zapata said that in a time of crunched budgets and stalled revenues, reigniting Lite-Up Texas looks unlikely.
Sources: Media reports