AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Thursday, Austin City Council approved measures to provide emergency relief to Austin Energy and Austin Water customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changes will provide around $46 million in relief to customers, beginning immediately and through Sept. 30.
According to the City of Austin, bill relief will performed two ways: rate reductions and customer assistance programs.
Rate reductions will feature a 10% reduction in residential water (Tiers 1-3) and wastewater (Tiers 1-2) volume rates, which is projected to provide an estimated $6 million in utility bill savings. The City says residential customers should expect to see immediate water bill savings.
Austin Energy reduction rates will include a temporary setting of residential electric rates at $0.07814/kWh for all usage above 1,000 kWh.
In its announcement, the City of Austin said:
“Existing rates were designed to send conservation price signals to customers. However, at this time, customers have less control over whether they may hit higher tiers, causing bills to increase more dramatically. This action provides relief for customers whose consumption increases as a result of Stay Home – Work Safe.”
The City says its customer assistance programs will help utility customers facing temporary and long-term financial difficulties — in addition to those with serious medical problems. The Utility Bill Discount Program and the Plus 1 Financial Support Program provide direct, targeted relief to the most vulnerable customers experiencing hardship in paying utility bills, the City says.
Further assistance includes an increase in the CAP discount, plus widening enrollment into the discount program, which is now open anyone with household incomes at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
“Austin Energy is part of this community, and we must do everything we can to reduce costs for customers who are helping our community by staying home,” said Jackie Sargent, Austin Energy General Manager. “We’re also making sure those who have suffered a loss of income during this unprecedented crisis can come to us for additional utility bill assistance.”