Spencer Solves It: Help available for those having trouble paying the bills

HOUSTON – Whether you live in the city, the suburbs, or a more rural part of Texas, the coronavirus pandemic is putting a financial strain on everyone, especially when it comes to paying your bills.

Trevor Haughton and his wife, Rita Moses, are drowning in debt after recently losing their service industry jobs due to COVID-19. They owe nearly $3,000 in overdue rent and utility bills. They were hoping to qualify for Houston’s rental assistance program, but it ran out of money in less than an hour.

“I don’t know what to do, I’m in a panic state,” Trevor Haughton said. “We owe 2 months rent, April and May, and I don’t know if we’re gonna be put out on the street.”

The Haughtons’ story illustrates the unbelievable amount of need for help right now. But there is help available.

“Texans that have lost their jobs and have applied for unemployment can also enroll in this program which allows them to be free from disconnection of their electricity,” said Andrew Barlowe with the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

In March, the PUC created the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program to protect low-income Texans and those that have lost their jobs from having their electricity shut off, even if they can’t pay their bills.

The PUC program runs through July 17 and you can apply by calling 866-454-8387. It’s not a free program. It is simply protection from the threat of disconnection of service. You can find out more about the program by clicking here and here.

Another organization that is offering low-income families with help paying rent and utilities is Catholic Charities.

“This is probably the most extraordinary experience,” said Natalie Wood with Catholic Charities. “I’ve worked in non-profits and this need is so large.”

The assistance is available to qualified people in Houston’s ten metro counties. For more information, click here.

We also found a comprehensive list of help available in Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, and Waller counties, as well as help available from United Way where you can search for what’s available in your neighborhood.

Montgomery County

Montgomery County Emergency Assistance, Inc., which is located in Conroe, offers numerous assistance programs, including rent and mortgage assistance and utility bill assistance. For more information, call 936-539-1096 or click here.

Fort Bend County

For information on assistance programs in Fort Bend County, click here.

Galveston County

In Galveston County, you can contact the Community Action Council, Inc. at 409-765-7878 for help applying for low-income energy assistance programs.

As for the Haughtons, one day after our Spencer Solves It team got involved, a woman named Dania Nelson offered to give them enough money to cover their bills.

“I mean they were two months behind, both lost their jobs, just something touched me to reach out and help them,” she said.

For Trevor and Rita, their prayers were answered.

About the Authors:

Emmy-winning investigative reporter, insanely competitive tennis player, skier, weightlifter, crazy rock & roll drummer (John Bonham is my hero). Husband to Veronica and loving cat father to Bella and Meemo.

Award-winning broadcast journalist covering local, regional, national and international stories. Recognized in the industry for subject matter expertise including: Legal/Court Research, the Space Industry, Education, Environmental Issues, Underserved Populations and Data Visualization.