The following public and private jurisdictions in Texas have adopted protections to ensure that residents have access to utilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Do you know of a jurisdiction that should added to this list? Email CommunityAssistanceProject@law.utexas.edu.
Texas Public Utility Commission
July 2, 2020: The PUC extended their electricity relief program until August 31. The program was set to expire on July 17, but the PUC felt the increase in coronavirus cases warranted an extension.
March 26, 2020: The PUC adopted an order, effective March 26, 2020, until the Governor’s disaster declaration is terminated:
- Banning utility service providers from cutting off electric, water, and sewer services due to non-payment.
- Suspending water, sewer, and electric rules that relate to assessment of late fees on customers for delinquent bills, that relate to requirements for estimated bills, and that allow a water utility to charge interest on a deferred payment plan.
- Requiring retail electric providers to offer a deferred payment plan to customers, upon request.
Consumers will still be on the hook for missed payments. Read here for more information about the order.
The PUC has also created the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program, a customer assistance program for eligible residential customers of private retail electric services (i.e., not public utilities) that suspends disconnections for non-payment. The program includes a $15 million interest-free loan to private electricity providers to cover the unpaid bills of residential customers. Texas residents are eligible for the program if they, or someone in their household, receive or are in the process of applying to receive unemployment benefits. They can apply online or by calling 866-454-8387. If customers are denied a payment plan or experience other problems, they can reach out to the customer protection division of the Public Utilities Commission.
On March 18, the City of Amarillo announced it had temporarily stopped the disconnection of water service due to nonpayment for all customers. In addition, any water service previously disconnected for non-payment could be restored by request. As of May 19th, the order is still in place.
On March 16, the City of Arlington announced the Water Utilities department temporarily halted all disconnections of water service because of delinquency. For accounts that are currently delinquent and would typically be scheduled for disconnection, no additional late fees will be applied if payment arrangements are made while this temporary policy is in place. As of May 19th, the order is still in place.
The City of Austin Utility Bill Relief program is in effect through September 30, 2020. The program suspends utility disconnects and waives all late fees for non-payment. All customers in need will be placed on payment arrangements, and rates have also been reduced. Customers who experience financial hardship due to the effects of COVID-19 are also eligible for financial support through the Financial Support Plus 1 Fund.
Travis County residents can call 512-854-4120 (Travis County Health Office) for assistance with their electric and water utility bills.
Effective March 16, 2020, Dallas Water Utilities has suspended all disconnections and late fees until further notice.
May 19th: The customer service page of El Paso Water states that disconnections for non-payment are suspended until further notice.
May 11th: The El Paso City Council adopted an extension of its original emergency ordinance through June 10, 2020, which includes the prohibition on utility disconnections for nonpayment.
Mar 17: Emergency ordinance passed by the El Paso City Council barring local utilities from discontinuing the provision of cable, internet, water, gas, waste removal and electric utility services to local residents for lack of payment. The ban runs until April 23 or termination of the state of disaster, whichever is sooner.
Mar 19: The city is temporarily halting disconnections due to non-payment, according to water department spokeswoman Mary Gugliuzza. This applies to residential, commercial, and industrial accounts.
Mayor Sylvester Turner issued an executive order to suspend water service disconnections throughout the City of Houston beginning March 12, 2020 through April 30, 2020.
May 6: Section 21 of an Amended Emergency Order states that the City of Laredo will allocate $1.5 million from “COVID-19 Emergency Relief Funds” to cover up to three months of residential utility fees for qualifying individuals who are unable to pay their bills due to a layoff that is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information and relief request requirements, visit The City of Laredo Utilities Department COVID-19 Relief Program.
On March 18, 2020, the City of Mission discontinued water service disconnections due to non-payment at all Mission residences and businesses until further notice.
San Antonio Water Services and CPS will not disconnect utility services for residents who fail to pay their bills (via a March 11th announcement by the utilities).
On March 23, the City of Wichita Falls temporarily suspended water service disconnections due to non-payment at all residences and businesses,.
- As of March, the following private gas companies have suspended temporary gas disconnections due to non-payment:
- As of March, the following private electric companies have temporarily suspended disconnections due to nonpayment:
- Ambit Energy is assisting their Texas customers who may have trouble paying bills by:
- Waiving late payment fees.
- Extending payment due dates, with no partial payment required.
- Reducing monthly payments by allowing customers to pay their balances over five equal installments.
- Reliant Energy is offering support to customers facing hardships by:
- Pausing payment-related disconnects for residential and small commercial customers
- Providing payment extensions and waiving late fees
- Assisting customers with deferred payment plans
- Offering bill payment assistance through Reliant’s CARE program
- On March 15, 2020, Dallas-based TXU Energy announced they would:
- Provide bill-payment assistance to customers in need through its TXU Energy Aid program;
- Waive late fees;
- Extend payment due dates with no down payment required;
- Reduce down payments and defer balances over five equal installments; and
- Commit $450,000 to help Texans pay bills.
- AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum, T-Mobile, and others have pledged to not disconnect broadband and phone services, waive late fees for non-payment due to COVID-19, and provide free wi-fi hotspots for 60 days starting March 13, 2020.
- Free internet for 60 days to households with K-12 or college students who don’t already have a Spectrum subscription.
- Also opening its Wi-Fi hotspots for public use.