WTOS & Llano Estacado Alliance for Democracy (LEAD) clergy and leaders succeeded in getting City of Lubbock Utilities to halt robocalls to residents. The automated calls were causing "fear and anxiety that utilities would be shut off," even after the emergency declaration was put into place.
“As a pastoral leader in Lubbock I want to recognize the City of Lubbock Utilities for listening and assisting to reduce the fear and panic especially among some of our city’s most vulnerable people, a segment of our population very much in need of compassion in the current difficult circumstances,” said The Most Reverend Bishop Robert Coerver of the Catholic Diocese of Lubbock.
Rev. Becky Fox, Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church added, “We look forward to future opportunities to work together with City of Lubbock Utilities to continue to find ways to better serve our community.”
[Photo Credit: AP Graphics]
In the only public testimony at today’s Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) meeting, Texas IAF leader Rev. Miles Brandon of Central Texas Interfaith called on the PUC to create assistance programs and halt cutoffs for customers impacted by the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. At the meeting the PUC voted to create the “COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program” providing financial assistance and halting service disconnections for low-income and unemployed customers in deregulated markets such as Dallas, Houston, and Round Rock
“COVID-19 is causing uncertainty and many hardships, and during this time, Central Texas Interfaith and our partner organizations in Texas IAF don’t want Texas citizens to have their physical or financial health put in danger unnecessarily," said Rev. Brandon.
PUC Chair DeAnn T. Walker recognized Fr. Brandon and the work of the Texas IAF organizations in advocating for families across the state.
6 million Texans live in the areas impact by the measures enacted by PUC today. Today’s actions were a first step. Texas IAF leaders plan to work with PUC leaders to extend and potentially expand these protections and assistance programs as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues.
Statement by Rev. Miles Brandon, St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church, Central TX Interfaith
Statement by Bryan Lopez, Assumption Catholic Church in Houston, TMO
On a cloudy November day, EPISO/Border Interfaith celebrated the initiation of a $13 Million project that will provide 816 Montana Vista residents with water and wastewater services in a colonia far east of El Paso. El Paso Water Utilities publicly recognized the organization for its leadership in ensuring that residents have access to these essential services.
For years, Montana Vista felt like a forgotten community due to poverty, isolation and a lack of relationships with elected officials. Residents appealed to their then-priest at San Juan Diego Catholic for support in getting much needed basic streets, parks and wastewater services. A longtime leader and co-chair of EPISO, Father Ed Roden-Lucero and EPISO organizers worked with resident leaders, guiding them in their efforts to seek essential infrastructure.
Part of those efforts included community education about the Economically Distressed Areas Program, a program created in 1989 by EPISO/Border Interfaith and sister Texas IAF organizations to address lack of infrastructure in the colonias. That same year, EPISO/BI and Texas IAF organizations got out the vote to amend the Texas Constitution to provide the Texas Water Development Board $200 million dollars to issue grants and loans to install water and wastewater infrastructure in colonias and economically distressed areas. Since 1989, over $1 Billion dollars have been invested in colonias and economically distressed areas across Texas.
Change is coming to Montana Vista. In January, a long-fought for (and separately funded) road extension was newly opened, with four lanes, bike routes, sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping. Now, to community acclaim, El Paso Water is breaking ground for Phase 1 of its water and wastewater project -- scheduled for completion within 18 months.
After months of research and negotiation to address a municipal crisis in water billing and repayment, the City of Jackson announced a plan, developed in collaboration with Working Together Jackson, to both help the residents repay past-due bills and the Public Works Department collect essential payments.
“As a result of our collaborative efforts with the Public Works Department, there are now multiple payment options available where before there was only one,” Working Together Jackson said. “But more importantly, there are objective criteria so if you act in good faith you will not leave without being presented options to pay your bill in a way that works for both you and the City.”
The plans were informed by conversations organized by leaders through house meetings and water bill advocacy sessions in which residents brought their bills and learned how to manage repayment.
[Photo Credit: Seyma Bayram, Jackson Free Press]
Jackson Unveils Water-Bill Payment Plan Required for Delinquent Residents, Jackson Free Press
Press Statement Regarding Water Billing, Working Together Jackson
Rev. Jonalu Johnstone, a minister at the First Unitarian Church of OK City, argued, "It falls to you, the corporation commissioners, to stand for the consumers in this case, many of whom barely make it now from paycheck to paycheck."Read more
Why Customers Unpaid Bills are Piling Up at Austin Energy, Austin American Statesman
300 leaders of EPISO organized a runoff accountability session at San Juan Diego Catholic Church late July. Reports the El Paso Times, "Vince Perez, a former communications director for U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, and state Rep. Inocente "Chente" Quintanilla took questions from about 300 residents of the unincorporated community in East El Paso County during a two-hour event Sunday.Read more