The Brownsville Public Utilities Board announced it is continuing to qualify customers for its expanded project SHARE program that provides utility assistance for residential customers hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
BPUB announced the COVID-19 help in April including the approval of a $2 million expansion to its BPUB Project SHARE Fund. The fund will help customers in most need with applying $200 toward their utility bill. The utility provider also announced it will extend the suspension of service disconnections and late fees until June 30.
According to a BPUB press release, the SHARE program is available to any BPUB residential customer who can demonstrate at least one of the following requirements:
>>Recent unemployment due to COVID-19 pandemic
>>Underemployment (loss of income) due to COVID-19 pandemic
>> Furloughed employment due to COVID-19 pandemic
BPUB said there are additional qualifications for the program such as the customer account cannot be past due for more than two months, customers can only be assisted on bills that are past due and there is a limit of $200 per client, per month.
BPUB suspended residential service disconnections and waived late fees for bills issued after April 1. Bills issued prior to that will still be responsible for any resulting penalties, the press release reads.
The Community Action Corporation of South Texas (CACOST) and Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV) will qualify customers on behalf of BPUB.
“ The response from customers has been very positive, and we’re very happy about that. We are currently working with the Community Action Corporation of South Texas (CACOST) and Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV) to qualify customers on our behalf,” BPUB spokesperson Cleiri Quezada said. “They are working as quickly as possible to process all of the applications that have been submitted, and we look forward to providing assistance to all the customers who qualify for the program.”
Customers will be required to provide a copy of the BPUB billing statement, proof of income for the last 30 days and any supporting documents for unemployment or underemployment. To abide by social distancing guidelines, the requirement of an in-person interview has been waived, the press release reads.
During a previous interview Quezada said the intention is for these funds to benefit residential customers who are not able to pay their utility bill due to unemployment, low income and families who have been affected by COVID-19.
“ So if they lost their job and are unemployed, they will benefit from the program,” she said. “Those customers who did not lose jobs or work and have not been financially impacted, significantly by COVID-19, will not be eligible but anybody who applies to the relief program their customer eligibility will be determined by a third party.”
Quezada said even if customers are not eligible for the project SHARE, the BPUB board of directors also ratified a suspension of late penalties and fees as well as service disconnections that were previously scheduled to end on April 30 but will now end on June 30.
“ It was updated and we will not be disconnecting residential services until June 30,” she said.
“ We want to tell our customers that BPUB is here for them, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we have been working together with all of our departments in seeing how we can adjust our services to benefit our customers the best way possible.”
Customers interested in applying for Project SHARE will need to schedule an appointment by calling CACOST at (956) 435-0379 or CCRGV at (956) 541-0220.