FORT WORTH, Texas — Millions of dollars set aside to pay electric bills and make the homes of low-income families more energy efficient are waiting in coffers.
But a new study shows most people have no idea the programs exist.
Fewer than 25 percent of Texans knew about bill assistance programs and less than 15 percent had ever heard about free home weatherization services, according to a study by the Texas Energy Poverty Research Center published in June.
"It is totally free to the homeowner,” said Marie Francis, of Fort Worth’s Community Action Partners, one of 43 organizations in Texas that offers the services.
Qualifying low-income families can have up to eight electric bills paid by the organization.
"We pay directly to the electric company,” Francis said. “The client doesn't have to do anything."
The weatherization programs provide free home assessments to find ways to make them more energy-efficient and pay for things like insulation, new HVAC systems and more.
Community Action Partners in Fort Worth receives about $6 million in state and federal funds, and helped 6,500 families last year.
“That's not even a drop in the bucket,” Francis said. “We could probably do 18,000 households.”
Raquel Dixon is applying for assistance after hearing about it from a relative. When she tried to spread the word in her neighborhood, she ran into a lot of blank stares.
"I found that people, they don't know about it,” Dixon said.
She wants the City and utility companies to do better about educating the public.
After seeing the study, Community Action Partners is looking to do just that.
“We are trying to be better about advertising,” Francis said.
Dixon said a little information goes a long way for families struggling to keep up.
"Everything becomes a snowball effect until it just caves in on you," Dixon said.
To find out if you qualify, call 211 for information on programs in your area throughout North Texas. That will direct you to your local community information and referral services.
In Fort Worth, Community Action Partners is taking in-person applications from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 26, August 23 and August 30 at the Tarrant County Resource Connection at 2300 Circle Drive.