Detroit offers $1M US to help water customers pay bills

Hundreds of eligible Detroit residents could receive financial help this week to pay their water bills, with the money coming from fellow citizens.

Funds come from voluntary contributions from other retail customers

Detroit is shutting off water to thousands of accounts in arrears. (Elizabest Conley/Detroit News/AP)

Hundreds of eligible Detroit residents could receive financial help this week in paying their water bills.

The Detroit Residential Water Assistance Program has close to $1 million US available to help customers who are struggling to pay their water bills.

The program is sponsored by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which earlier this year began shutting off water to some customers who are in arrears.

Funds for the assistance program come from voluntary contributions from other Detroit retail customers.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which accounts for $6 billion of Detroit's $18 billion debt, is shutting off 3,000 accounts a week.

Customers who qualify under the assistance program will receive up to $1,500 toward their water bill. 

However, all participants will be required to make some contribution toward their account.

The program will also give customers advice on proper budgeting and an opportunity to pay their bill in a timely manner.

"Our goal is not to shut off water in homes but to keep water on," Darryl Latimer, the water department's deputy director, said in a media release. "We are willing to work with those who are having trouble paying their water bills, and the DRWAP program is one of those avenues for assistance."

The customer is responsible for paying a set amount toward their monthly bill and the DRWAP program pays the difference.

Income cutoff

Applicants must meet a number of criteria to be eligible: They must be at or below 200 per cent of U.S. federal government poverty levels; live in a single-family dwelling and be responsible for paying their water bill.

That means that to be eligible currently, the income of a family of four cannot exceed $47,700. The total amount of the bill cannot exceed $2,500.

In addition, customers need to be Detroit residents and in receipt of a shut-off notice for their water service. 


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