During their Sept. 12 regular meeting, the New Braunfels City Council approved up to $500,000 from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds for additional utility bill assistance programming to the McKenna Foundation.

The foundation will oversee the administration of the funds to nonprofit organizations where residents seek assistance and collect data on various needs throughout the community. The New Braunfels Food Bank, the Community Council of South Central Texas, the Family Life Center and the Salvation Army are the local nonprofits that will assist in utility payments.

“The infusion of funds should allow for these nonprofits to determine how best to ensure that these funds get into those families and those individuals most in need,” said Jared Warner, New Braunfels assistant city manager.

With the utility assistance expansion, the McKenna Foundation will disburse funds to nonprofits providing utility assistance through an application process to allow for expansion of existing programs. The nonprofit agencies will use existing criteria and expand eligibility where necessary to prioritize those in need.

“Utility assistance is not new to the New Braunfels community,” McKenna Foundation CEO Alice Jewell said. “This is a program and opportunity that local nonprofits provide to residents in need annually, and we have done so for years. We have four groups that are actively pursuing and constantly evaluating the needs for utility assistance, even outside of crisis times. Those are the New Braunfels Food Bank, the Community Council of South Central Texas, the Family Life Center and the Salvation Army.”

The McKenna Foundation will also collect data from nonprofits to demonstrate program outputs, including individuals and households served and the amount of assistance provided.

According to Jewell, together the four nonprofits expanded about $900,000 toward utility assistance in 2021. The New Braunfels Food Bank had $17,000 budgeted for utility assistance in August but ended up providing $36,000 to the public.

“This is just a drop-in-the-bucket starting point; we can always come back and add more—$500,000, a million, what we need,” Place 2 Council Member Christopher Willis said. “We just needed to get this out into the people so we can get some help now for them.”

The agreement will terminate after all funds have been exhausted or on Sept. 30, 2023, whichever occurs first, according to city officials. More information on utility assistance can be found on the New Braunfels Utilities website.