Regina Chew is an intake specialist for Bexar County’s department of community resources. She travels around the county, helping elderly and disabled residents sign up for assistance programs.
That includes the Residential Energy Assistance Partnership, or REAP.
A partnership between CPS Energy, Bexar County and the City of San Antonio, REAP offers assistance with utility bills to those who qualify up to twice a year — once in the summer and once in the winter, when bills are highest.
The program is administered by the city’s Department of Human Services and Bexar County’s Department of Community Resources. Every dollar goes to those in need, because the city and county pay the administrative costs.
This year marks REAP’s 10th anniversary. Since 2002, CPS Energy has contributed $10 million to the REAP fund, and secured an additional $7.5 million, for a total of $17.5 million.
That amount is augmented by the generosity of CPS Energy customers, many of whom donate to REAP while paying their own utility bill.
While the weather is currently mild, coming colder temperatures will bring with them increased need, says Maria Koudouris, senior vice-president of customer service and gas delivery.
“Financial distress can cause people to not turn on their heaters to keep bills low,” she said. “That’s why we ask customers to join us in making a difference for families who are in need. Giving just one dollar to REAP can help.”
Since 2002, customers have donated more than $1 million to REAP.
Last year alone, more than 15,000 customers received $3.1 million in bill assistance. That includes a mother of four children, two of them disabled, who were facing the disconnection of their electricity last month.
Chew says she frequently sees families in similar situations.
“Often when a child is disabled, the mother is the main caregiver, so she can’t work,” she said.”It’s a rough situation, because the bills don’t stop coming.”
Chew was able to stop the looming disconnection by signing the mother up for REAP. She also got the family enrolled in the county’s Elderly and Disabled program, which will give them longer term assistance.
Getting those who need help connected into the web of available assistance is important, says Linda Zoila Flores, client services manager for Bexar County, “so they don’t need to come back. That frees up money to serve more people under REAP.”
For example, those who qualify for REAP are automatically referred to a local weatherization program, such as CPS Energy’s Casa Verde, which offers qualified customers free energy efficiency upgrades — upgrades that can help permanently lower bills.
“It can be so difficult to ask for help,” said Flores, “especially for the elderly, they have so much pride. But we want to make sure they get what they need.”
Donating to REAP is simple. Customers can check the REAP box on their paper bill or online, and give as little as one dollar. Last year, CPS Energy added PayPal as another way to make a secure donation.
Companies or individuals interested in making a larger, tax-deductible contribution can contact REAP directly at [email protected] or call 210-353-GIVE (4483).