Robbins: Throwing money at problems is not helping Austin’s poor

Posted: 7:00 p.m. Monday, June 8, 2015

By Paul Robbins – Special to the American-Statesman

Austin has one of the highest, if not the highest, costs of living in Texas. The situation is so bad that, according to an analysis of Census data, many poor people are leaving the city, moving to surrounding areas because they cannot make ends meet. One would think that utility programs put in place by the city of Austin to assist low-income people are essential to helping these residents survive. When poorly planned, however, the programs waste scarce resources, providing reasons for fiscal conservatives to be cynical about their effectiveness.

Last fall, I investigated inefficiencies in a utility bill assistance program run by the city, the Customer Assistance Program, known as CAP. I discovered that CAP, which gives rate relief to low-income customers, was giving money to wealthy people as well as poor ones.

Paul Robbins is one of the founding figures of Austin’s environmental community and a longtime consumer advocate.

Over 1,100 customers in homes worth more than $300,000 were receiving CAP funds.

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