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Texas Public Utilities Commission Suspends Utility Shutoffs During Crisis

Public Citizen's Texas office applauds move, suggests additional assistance

Statement of Kaiba White, Energy Policy and Outreach Specialist

Note: On Thursday, the Public Utility Commission of Texas voted unanimously to prohibit utilities from cutting off electricity and water services to Texans during the COVID-19 crisis.  The PUC also voted unanimously to create the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program, which will levy a $0.33/MW tariff to fund relief in areas served by the competitive market for residents who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

This is a good first step, but additional action is needed to blunt the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Texas residents struggling to pay their bills.

We welcome PUC Chairman DeAnn Walker’s offer to consider additional recommendations in the weeks and months to come. The PUC will need to extend the one-month authorization of the Relief Program tariff. We recommend the PUC expand eligibility for the Relief Program to include anyone who lost significant income due to the COVID-19 crisis. Under the order adopted today, only residents who lose their jobs are eligible.

The orders also don’t address reconnecting residents who have already been disconnected, which should be done immediately.