Electric Assistance Program In Jeopardy - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

05/23/05 - Nacogdoches

Electric Assistance Program In Jeopardy

by Donna McCollum

Some poor East Texans will not receive the help they need to stay cool and safe this summer. An electric discount program which provides weatherization and energy assistance is expected to go away.

This deeply concerns Community Action's Carl Singleton. He looks at the before and after picture when judging the success of the westernization program he coordinates. Showing a picture of a mobile home he said, "This is what it looked like before. The siding was all rotted out." Then he walks around the same home and pointed out, "This is Hardy Board we put up. It has a 50 year warranty. It will out last the mobile home."

The improvements lower Debra Washington's electric bill. She now has the money to buy medicines and treatments for a head injury. "Now I can tell the difference in my building already and it's just the beginning of the summer," said Washington.

Community Action will help fewer East Texans if legislators wanting money for a state budget continue to drain an energy assistance fund that serves poor TXU customers. Director of Community Action, Karen Swenson said, "We're trying to encourage the utility companies to stay with this and the legislature not to sweep the fund."

Last year Community Action had the benefit fund slashed by $150,000. The agency was forced to reduce energy improvement funding on each home from about $5,000 to $2,500. Swenson has 800 TXU customers, like Washington on a waiting list for assistance when they most need it. A hot summer ahead combined with TXU's almost 10% rate hike increase is not the time for energy assistance funding cuts.

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