High Electric Rates Impacting the Poor and Elderly

High gas prices aren’t the only thing hurting many Houston residents this summer. One state lawmaker says soaring electric rates are having a devastating impact on the poor and elderly. Many are finding themselves with no way to stay cool. Bill Stamps has more.

Eighty-seven year old Evelyn Maxie recently got an electric bill for 200 dollars, and she doesn’t even have electricity. She keeps cool by going to the local senior center each day.  But when she comes home, it’s still hot.

“Around about 4 or 5 o’clock when the sun goes down, I open up my door and the lady gave me two fans and then I have a ceiling fan.”

Patricia Vela signed up for a pre-pay electric plan. She thought she could afford it until the bill came.

“I pay 329 deposit, and then the bill comes at like 800 dollars.”

State Representative Sylvester Turner says his office has received many calls from from people like Patricia and Evelyn asking for help.

“One guy, for example, was a critical care patient, an individual customer. He was with Direct and they were out to disconnect. He pleaded with them not to, because he was a critical care patient.  They did. He ended up being put in the hospital because of the heat.”

The public utilities commission regulates power companies and says there are already rules against disconnecting certain customers during extremely hot weather.

He also says power companies aren’t allowed to advertise a one pre-pay rate and then charge another.

“That is something we should look into. If customers feel they are getting a bill that is a higher rate than what they signed up for, they should file a complaint with the PUC, (or Public Utility Commission of Texas).”

Representative Turner says some people go with the pre-pay plan because of poor credit history. He believes some power companies are like credit card companies…trying to make money off the poor.

“We are not going to allow you to prey on this vunerable population.  People need electricity”

Bill Stamps…KUHF Houston Public Radio News.