85-year-old Angelita Martinez has lived in her home for 32 years, but after suffering a stroke, it became difficult to pay bills and live independently. Angelita’s sole source of income is her social security check, so keeping expenses like energy bills affordable is a necessity.
Fortunately, her younger brother, Martin Martinez, who faithfully helps her run errands and attend doctor’s appointments, brought her to the Community Programs Fair last Saturday.
“We need help keeping the house cooler,” said Martin while filling out an application for Casa Verde. “We put an air conditioner in her room, but it’s not enough to keep it cool. During the winter, I put a gas heater in the room, but it’s still too cold.”
Much like Angelita, many of the 250 residents who attended the fair at Antioch Sports Complex were there to apply for one of CPS Energy’s assistance programs and get help lowering energy bills.
More than 100 applied right there for programs like Casa Verde, which offers qualifying customers an average of $5,000 of free insulation and other energy-saving improvements that help reduce monthly energy bills.
“Assistance programs like Casa Verde help customers save money while making their homes more comfortable and energy efficient,” said Maria Garcia, CPS Energy’s vice president of community engagement. “Most of the improvements, like attic insulation, are invisible to the customer but the bottom line savings on the bill is highly visible, and can free up money for other needs.”
Joseph Torchia has endured three back surgeries, but still has difficulty keeping his balance while walking. Aside from back problems, Torchia has a hard time staying comfortable in his home.
“It’s brutally hot in the house during the summer,” said Torchia. “I have two broken air conditioners and only one window unit in the living room that works, so I sleep there.”
CPS Energy employees greeted Torchia with smiles, handing him a free compact fluorescent light bulb and neon green bag filled with a few gifts. Moments later, Community Programs Director Jesse Hernandez helped Torchia fill out a Casa Verde application.
Customers also got a chance to browse booths of nine other event partners, including Eastside Promise Neighborhood, which provides housing and educational opportunities.
Patrice Hargrove, resident engagement manager of Eastside Promise Neighborhood, said the fair provided the opportunity to talk directly to residents about the resources and benefits available to them.
“Many people count themselves out,” said Hargrove. “It’s very important to have conversations in person to let them know about opportunities that can change their family’s financial situation. We appreciate CPS Energy giving us the opportunity to have those conversations.”
The San Antonio Food Bank helped about 25 residents apply for food stamps, and provided information about food pantries located in their neighborhoods. Veronica Gallindo, a Food Bank representative, said many residents who use food stamps aren’t aware pantries are another resource available to them.
“Many people know about the food bank, but are not aware of the 560 locations around the city that also distribute food,” said Galindo. “We appreciate being invited to spread the word about resources that help us fight hunger and feed hope in our community.”
District 2 City Councilman Keith Toney, who attended the event, agreed the fair provided an invaluable resource for the community.
“We can only stand to benefit when businesses follow the lead of CPS Energy by offering savings, advice and program information to renters and homeowners alike,” said Toney.
After reviewing Martinez’s application and proof of income, Intake Specialist Dan Macias determined that she not only qualified for Casa Verde, but also was eligible for the Affordability Discount and Senior Citizens Billing programs.
The Affordability Discount will give Martinez a discount on her monthly service availability charge while the Senior Citizens Billing program gives her more time to pay the net amount of her utility bill.
While walking out of the fair, arm in arm with his sister, Martin Martinez expressed his gratefulness for the service they received.
“Dan spoke good Spanish and was very helpful,” said Martin. “This made it easier because we are used to speaking Spanish. I think Casa Verde and these other programs will really help Angelita.”