LP&L changing billing practices ahead of market transition; Community Development to make assistance available

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) – Lubbock Power & Light will begin making changes to some billing practices in February as part of its transition away from acting as the City of Lubbock’s electric utility this Fall when customers will choose their provider. The Lubbock City Council Tuesday approved a resolution giving the proper authority to make the changes.

“We would eventually phase out the collection of deposits, electric deposits for our customers,” Harvey Hall, LP&L Chief Financial Officer, told the Council. “Another one in there would be the ending or phasing out of the Budget Billing program.”

According to the agenda, the Director of Electric Utilities would also determine how to return deposits to customers.

Harvey said the Budget Billing program, a way for customers to pay a specific amount each month instead of the actual billed amount, would begin phasing out in February as a way to reach customers at a time when they are more likely to have a credit balance .

“It’s easier to work with a customer when they have a credit balance there rather than a deficit,” Harvey said. “It also gives time to give customer education to the changes that are going to be proposed, and also to help guide them through higher billing periods during the summer. It gives flexibility for the utility to work with them and help guide them to that process to eventually phasing on to another retail electric provider.”

Through a separate agenda item, the Council also approved a budget amendment that allows the Community Development Department to add $25,723 from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to its Comprehensive Energy Assistance Grant Budget. That brings the budget to a total of $1,525,723 for citizens in need of help paying electric bills.

“These are for vulnerable populations, low income, actually poverty level that can apply,” Karen Murfee, Community Development Director, told the Council. “It’s normally people that are on a fixed income that can’t afford it.”

Murfee said Neighborhood House, inside the YWCA building at 6501 University Avenue, handles the applications. They will be available starting January 17.

“They can either get online and download those applications and submit them by email, or they can make an appointment with Neighborhood House, come to their office, pick up a paper application,” Murfee said. “Then they will go in for an interview and they’ll go through the process with them and get them approved.”

Councilmembers said they had received several requests for information on bill assistance, including from people who have never had to ask for help.

“We are getting lots of calls because utility bills are high,” Councilwoman Latrelle Joy said. “We all know that they’re high, not because L&PL raised their rates. It is because of that Power Cost Recovery that passes through from the people we buy our electricity from.”

For those who need to set an appointment with Neighborhood House, Murfee encourages them to call first at 806-589-1907.

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