Bills, Housing, and Utility Assistance
Federal Help with Paying Bills
Many hard working families are currently struggling due to the economic and health impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. The federal government has several assistance programs to help low-income indivuals with paying phone bills, medical bulls and other expenses. You can also learn more about how apply for temporary assistance due to coronavirus here or by using the portal below:
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Information:
The Department of Houstin and Urban Development has several resources available for people who may be at risk of losing housing due to the impacts of coronavirus. Below you can check out the FAQs below regarding Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) (including the Project-based Voucher Program (PBV)) and Native American Programs:
HUD also has several homelessness resources for individuals who are experiencing homelessness or professionals who work with homeless individuals. Click here to access these resources. Click here for a comprehensive list of new and existing resources from HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) and their federal, state, and local partners. SNAPS will share daily updates highlighting new COVID-19 prevention and response resources targeted to homeless providers.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched the Keep America Connected Pledge, encouraging telecommunication companies to pledge not to terminate any service to any residential or small business customers because of inability to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak; waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of economic circumstances related to coronavirua COVID-19; and open Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them. See below for the full list of companies that have made the pledge:
Companies Going Beyond the Pledge (per the FCC Website):
- ALLO Communications: Offering 50 Mbps broadband service for free for 60 days to households without Internet service, reducing fees for 60 days for existing and new broadband customers in need, and waiving service modification fees for businesses and residences.
- Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink): Offering 30 Mbps broadband service for free for 60 days to households that have K-12 and/or college students who may be displaced by school closures and do not currently have home broadband.
- AT&T: Providing all consumer home Internet wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet customers, with unlimited Internet data, and funding an eLearning coalition to provide free resources to educators.
- BEK Communications: Doubling Internet speeds for all customers at no additional charge, offering broadband service for free for four months to new customers with telehealth, education, and work-from-home needs.
- C Spire: Offering free wireless data to K-12 students for educational purposes.
- CableONE/Sparklight: Offering unlimited data on all broadband services for 30 days.
- CenturyLink: Suspending data usage limits.
- Charter (Spectrum): Offering up to 100 Mbps broadband service for free for 60 days to new households with K-12 and/or college students and waiving installation fees for such households.
- Comcast (Xfinity): Increasing broadband speeds for Internet Essentials (low-income) customers from 15 Mbps to 25 Mbps, offering broadband service for free for 60 days to new Internet Essentials customers, and offering all customers unlimited data for 60 days.
- Cox: Increasing broadband speeds for Connect2Compete (low-income) and certain other customers up to 50 Mbps temporarily, offering broadband service for free for 30 days to new Connect2Compete customers and fast-tracking the qualification process, and offering remote desktop support for free to Connect2Compete and certain other customers.
- GeoLinks: Increasing broadband speeds for customers who are working remotely.
- Hotwire Communications: Offering free 100 Mbps broadband for two months to new customers that are students or in low-income households.
- Mediacom: Increasing broadband speeds for Connect2Compete (low-income) customers from 10 Mbps to 25 Mbps, offering broadband service for free for 60 days to new Connect2Compete customers; reducing prices for 60 Mbps broadband service for new customers, and suspending data usage limits through May 15.
- Nelson Cable: Increasing broadband speeds for customers that need it for distance learning, telecommuting, or telemedicine, and offering 50 Mbps broadband service for free through June 30 to new customers in need.
- Ninestar Connect: Increasing broadband speeds up to 1 Gbps through April 10 for customers on fiber.
- Socket Telecom: Increasing broadband speeds to 1 Gbps for 60 days for residential customers on fiber.
- Starry: Offering free 30 Mbps broadband service through the end of May for both new and existing customers in affordable housing.
- Sprint: Offering unlimited smartphone data and additional mobile hotspot data for 60 days, increasing data usage limits for high school students without home Internet that are supported by the 1Million Project Foundation, and accelerating the delivery of 100,000 devices originally intended for next school year to those students.
- T-Mobile: Offering unlimited smartphone data and additional mobile hotspot data for 60 days, providing additional free data to Lifeline partners’ customers, increasing data usage limits for schools and students using EmpowerED digital learning programs, and offering free international calling to COVID19 impacted countries.
- Verizon: Tripling the data usage limit for students in Title I schools that are part of the Verizon Innovative Learning Program and committing an additional $10 million to nonprofits supporting students and first responders.
- Washington Broadband: Increasing broadband speeds for student customers and offering broadband service for free to students who cannot afford it and small business owners who have had to close their businesses.
United Way 2-1-1
Whether you need help finding child care, food stamps, care for an aging parent, or a haven from domestic violence, 2-1-1 is the number to call when you don't know who to call.
The United Way of Greater Houston 2-1-1 trained HELPLINE specialists help provide information and referrals drawn from a comprehensive database of social services. The 2-1-1 Texas/United Way HELPLINE connected 1.3 million people with help in 2019. Basic needs like food, utilities, and health care topped the list of requests last year, followed by rent assistance and help to find shelter.
With dedicated United Way THRIVE and veterans specialists on staff, 2-1-1 Texas/United Way HELPLINE connects families and veterans with resources to meet their unique needs. 2-1-1 Texas/United Way HELPLINE is also the information resource before, during, and after natural disasters, connecting people in need with up-to-the-minute information and critical services. For more information and resources, use the United Way of Greater Houston referral page pictured below.
Houston Rent Assistance Program
Currently, all of the funds have been committed for the COVID-19 BakerRipley City of Houston Rental Assistance Program. Unfortunately, due to the extensive economic impact of COVID-19, the demand for rental assistance has greatly exceeded the available funds. Please monitor the portal below in case additional funds become available. On May 15th, House Democrats passed the HEROES Act, which would provide $175 billion in rent and mortgage assistance if signed into law. The bill is currently pending consideration by the Senate.
BakerRipley Utility Assistance Program
BakerRipley has a Utility Assistance program that helps families and individuals in Harris County with the payment of their electricity and gas bills. This may be increasingly necessary for certain families that may have experience wage losses due to coronavirus. If you need help with paying your electricity or gas bills, you can contact the Utility Assistance Hotline at 713-590-2327 or the United Way of Greater Houston’s Helpline (2-1-1) to request an application. They are open Mondays thru Fridays from 8:00am to 5:00pm. Note: hours of operation may be different due to the increased need as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The eligibility requirements are as follows:
- Must be a resident of Harris County
- Must meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Income Guidelines
- Must show proof of identity for all household members – current/valid Texas Driver’s License, Texas ID, U.S. Passport, U.S. Military ID or U.S. Permanent Resident Card
- Must provide proof of Citizenship or legal residency for all household members – U.S. Passport, U.S. Birth Certificate, U.S. Permanent Resident Card
- Must provide proof of income for the past 30 days for all household members 18 years of age and older - such as employer gross wages, Social Security, Unemployment, SNAP, TANF, Child Support, Adoption Subsidies, Food Stamp Award Letter, Retirement, V.A. Disability, etc.
- Must provide a copy of electric bill
- Must provide a copy of current gas bill (if applicable)
Need Help Paying Bills
Need Help Paying Bills has a list of organizations in Texas, including in Houston, offering housing support or eviction prevention services, including emergency housing and homeless shelters. Find information on programs that offer a number of ways to get help with paying bills. Assistance is available for everything from debts to energy bills, free food, housing, property tax help, and much more. Non-profits also offer help for paying car loans and transportation programs.