Energy Assistance Money Not Helping Texans In Need

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In the stifling heat currently impacting North Texas, even the sound of a small air conditioning unit can be music to your ears.

For Melinda Lira, a mother of two young children living in Dallas, it might as well be an alarm clock.  “I’m worried any day now my electric could be cut off. I don’t know what I’m going to do without air.”

Lira and her family keep their window unit air conditioner cranked up because if you walk to the other side of the room in their apartment, it’s hot, there is a noticeable temperature difference.

The state has plenty of money to help people like the Liras, but isn’t.  For nearly a decade, the state has collected an extra dollar on most consumers electric bills to help those in need pay theirs.

The System Benefit Fund is a utility program administered by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas.  Records show at the end of last year, the state had $608 Million sitting in the fund.  This year, only $28 Million will be spent.

The state has said it needed the money to balance the budget, and has not allowed the money to be used for what it’s earmarked for.

“I don’t think it’s right.  I’ve tried everything.  I’ve called agencies to see if they can help me, and everyone’s out of funds.”

Reverend Gerald Britt says at City Square, formerly the Central Dallas Ministries, money is evaporating.  “It just becomes a classic example of what it means to balance the budget on the backs of poor people.”

Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth is among the lawmakers outraged.  “We have to be more transparent and if we’re not going to use money for its intended purpose, then we should stop collecting it for that purpose.”

As for Melinda Lira, she and her husband are looking for work, and the rent is due Wednesday.  “Nothing’s coming in, and i don’t know how we’re going to do it now.”

Governor Rick Perry has previously said the fund should be spent on its intended use.


One Comment

  1. lisa says:

    This is awful and fraud..if it’s collected to pay a certain thing then used for another.

  2. mcclendon says:

    This, sadly, is the way too much is done today. People who have nothing are the people being subjected to scandal, fraud and out right lies for the purposed ideas/workings of those who are just vampires of greed and don’t ever have enough! This is just another “suck” method. Money collected, not used for it’s intent….soon it has vanished…so, where did it go….who is banking? No one knows or can answer…yet this continues to go on, and on….enough!!!!

  3. ElleC says:

    This is part of the “right wing” method of balancing the state ( and national ) budget. Balance it on the backs of the working poor, the disabled, the children, the elderly, who often die in heat like we are having now. The state of Texas needs to be told by those of us who put that money in that fund in the first place to turn loose of every penny of it and put air conditioners where they are needed and do NOW. The actions of those who kept that fund from being used are unconcionable at best, criminal at worst. Every legislator, including Perry, who agreed to keep that money from being used for its intended purpose, should now be required to purchase an air conditioner for someone who needs one out of their own personal funds. And the more money they have, the more AC units they should be required to buy. They should be brought up on manslaughter charges for every person who dies from heat-related causes in their homes . We have allowed people to take over our government who are indifferent, cold, mean spirited, penurious, heedless, self-centered, greedy, and focused on just exactly the wrong things . This is just a symptom of a dreadful problem.

    1. Vicki Sonnier says:

      So true, so true. I am afraid with much more to come!

  4. Vicki Sonnier says:

    I am appauld! This is money we donated to help the poor, not balance the Texas budget! This is an obvious misppropriation of funds by our legislature. Put the money back where it belongs and use the DONATED funds appropriately. These legislators go home to their air conditioned and heated homes, without worry of how they will pay their bills, while the poor are trying to live through 32 days of 100+ degree weather. Do not forget the cold they endured in January and February. How can our politicians sleep at night knowing what they have done. Rick Perry said: “He believes the funds should be used for its intended use”. Isn’t he the Governor? Does he not have the right to veto? What are you trying to do Mr. Governor? Clear your name before you run for President?

  5. Thomas says:

    Waiting for the first right-winger to come in here and defend this.

  6. preacher says:

    the few that actually paythat extra dollar to help the needy are few and far between if you want the truth with the price of utilitys that dollar doesnt go far . however: why is it that it seems everyone wants a free ride ? its not the govs or the utilitys problem to pay your bills.

    1. Dan says:

      Please check out your facts before your comment. This is collected as a tax that appears on everyone’s utility bill for the designated purpose. Yes, you can give more if you’d like, but everyone pays into the fund. This story is not about low income elderly and disabled are asking for free rides or getting someone else to pay their bills. This story is about misappropriation of funds, clear and simple. But, why let the truth get in the way of what you believe, right, preacher?

  7. notafan says:

    One of you get a job NOW.

  8. oldman69 says:

    look in the mirror folks-there stands the IDIOT who keeps putting the same pos back in office-Nothing will change until all REPS and DEMS are out of office-looks like only another 1776 will change this-as long as the money rules the ballot box get used to it.

  9. Rick McDaniel says:

    These kinds of funds can only work, if they are specified for one use only!

    You think that’s bad?

    SS is the 4th largest holder of US debt. How disastrous is that????

  10. Really Tired says:

    “Governor Rick Perry has previously said the fund should be spent on its intended use.” That jerk is the one that raided that fund and put it in the general budget. The power companies pitched a fit, but it did no good. Some that money taken belonged to them and placed there to help those less fortunate with the power bills. This was a long time ago and because I work for a non-profit that tries to help those folks, I remember it well. I wish people would keep these underhanded dealings in their memories, because November 2012 is coming folks and you need to remember what is being done to the American public by those who have been elected to do what is supposed to be in our best interest and vote accordingly. Trying to hijack Social Security checks and military paychecks is not an option as far as I am concerned. Oh and by the way putting thousands of FAA workers out of a job and those employees of those with FAA government contracts out of work for about 6 weeks should not have been an option, but they did not fix that before they all left Washington for their vacations. They will be back in September and maybe then they can do what they were elected to do. Meanwhile, those folks are out of a job. So much for creating jobs!!

Comments are closed.

More From CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Drip Pan: CBS Local App
Drip Pan: Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE