POSTED: Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 5:07pm
UPDATED: Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 5:13pm
EL PASO - People are already struggling to make it in today's economy, and one local organization says more people could go hungry if electric rates rise.
"They have to make a decision about whether they're going to eat or pay the electric bill," Roy Ortega said.
Ortega works for Project Bravo. It's a social service agency that helps people pay utility bills while trying to get back on their feet.
"Right now, on average, we are assisting about 1,500 residents a month," he said.
Electricity is one of the utilities that Project Bravos helps people pay, and as we've reported, the cost of power could be going up by an average of about $4.00.
"That additional four dollars is going to be a significant hardship on a lot of people, particularly low income, elderly, and disabled residents who might be on a fixed income at the present time," Ortega said.
El Paso Electric Vice-President Evan Evans says they didn't want to raise rates until 2013. He says the city's actions are forcing them to do it.
"To have an unnecessary rate case at this time and occur those expenses, it will not save our customers money," Evans said.
El Paso City Council is trying to lower rates, but Evans says that can't happen. Power usage is low in our area, and the company wouldn't make enough money to sustain itself. On top of that, he says the company has been building more power plants and has not passed that cost on to customers.
"From June or July 1, 2009 through September of 2011, we have invested another half a billion dollars, and we're continuing to invest money," Evans said.
Now those costs, and the legal bills from the rate case, could be tacked on to bills, leaving more people in need.
"You can certainly anticipate that you are going to see larger numbers of people coming to social service agencies, like Project Bravo, for help in paying their utility bills," Ortega said.
It could be next Summer or Fall before we know if rates will be raised or lowered.