AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, the City of Austin hosted its 13th annual Affordable Energy Summit to bring community service providers together with city leaders for a day-long workshop on financial assistance programs the city offers. 

There are several different assistance programs, ranging from longer-term discounts to emergency financial aid for those who may not be able to pay their utility bill temporarily. 

“Combined in a year’s time, we’re putting out about $20 to $23 million in funding to help customers,” Ronnie Mendoza with Austin Energy explained Monday. 

That funding comes from a small percentage of Austin Utility bills. 

“There is a charge on your bill that pays for this. It’s .056 cents per kilowatt hour. And on average, a customer pays about $1.50 to $2 a month to fund these programs,” he said. 

Attendees included social worker Angelita G. Tobias, who has been serving her community for 29 years. She’s hoping to make sure she’s updated on the latest assistance programs so she can better help families she works with. 

“We need to link, and we need to teach parents and community members, so that they can become self-sufficient. And they know how to find the resources that are available in the community,” Tobias said. 

She said she has seen the benefits of the city’s assistance program first-hand. 

“In my caseload, there’s just so many families that I could speak up, that have benefited from this program in various ways. Things that really touched my heart deeply are situations when families have children with special needs and cancer. There are just an array of situations that they’re living,” Tobias explained.

The summit began with a panel featuring Travis County Health and Human Services and Austin Energy representatives, who discussed a variety of issues with those attending, and then took questions from attendees.

“There’s a lot of questions about what did we do differently, lessons learned about Winter Storm Uri, some concerns about the money that’s out in the community and how they feel it’s not trickling down to the actual customers who should be receiving it,” Mendoza explained. 

He said because there is such a widespread need in the community, it’s taking a while to get through applications for financial assistance. 

“There’s such a huge need, that Travis County during the general session mentioned that they have a four month backlog. And you think about what the state did a couple of weeks ago, when they set up that website for utility assistance, and they shut it down three weeks later, because they had so many applications,” Mendoza said. 

“I think when people hear the messaging that, you know, I’m not getting help, I’m not getting help, it’s probably not that they’re not getting help, as they haven’t gotten to them yet,” Mendoza explained.

For information on how to apply for assistance, you can learn more here.