Senior centers have become an oasis from the heat

CPS Energy has options for seniors with high energy bills

SAN ANTONIO – Rather than stay home trying to cool off with little to no air conditioning, seniors age 60 and older are finding an oasis from the heat at the city’s 11 senior centers.

“We wanted them to be able to come in for the activities. And now we’re finding they are coming in because of the heat,” said Bertha Franklin, manager of the District 5 Senior Center in the 2700 block of South Presa.

Most are on fixed incomes struggling to pay the higher energy costs, which is why some try to reduce their usage at home by coming to the senior center where the air conditioning is free, along with the meals, snacks and activities.

“It’s been a blessing, really has,” said Alma McRae, one of the regulars at the center.

McRae said she was relieved to see her last CPS Energy bill was under $100.

“Thank goodness,” she said.

But others like Maria Perez said her bill was twice that amount for using her only window unit.

“I have a thermometer in the kitchen. It reaches 100 degrees,” Perez said.

But CPS Energy does have several options for seniors, such as having more time to pay, and if they’re eligible, possible discounts, and waivers on late fees.

CPS Energy also has a policy to halt disconnects due to late payments whenever there is a heat advisory issued by the National Weather Service.

Although San Antonio has been under many heat advisories this summer, there are none in effect as of Wednesday.

CPS Energy sent KSAT the following statement:

“CPS Energy does not disconnect when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory for a county in the CPS Energy Service Area, and the first two calendar days following the termination of such advisory.

“For example, in the month of July, there were only two days that we were allowed to do disconnects because of the number of heat advisories issued.”

However, since heat advisories can vary from region-to-region, based on temperatures and other conditions, the AARP Texas has filed an emergency petition with the Public Utility Commission to simplify the process.

In its news release, AARP Texas said as it is now, “This rule makes it difficult for customers to know when a local disconnection ban is in effect and impossible to predict when the ban might be lifted and the power could be shut off.”

AARP Texas joined the Texas Consumer Association in asking the PUC “to suspend its current extreme weather disconnection rules as well as to stop disconnecting electric service due to past-due bills until at least Sept. 15.”

Not only that, AARP Texas said it wants energy providers to report how many current accounts have been disconnected for lack of payment, then update those reports weekly through at least November.

“We collectively believe it’s a matter of public safety,” said Stephanie Mace, an associate state director of advocacy and outreach at AARP Texas. “An electricity disconnection moratorium is a key provision for public health and safety.”

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.