Except for one program, none of the programs described below provide particular financial aid to cover water/wastewater utilities (“water utilities). In fact, the programs are often sponsored to give relief for a variety of requirements, including payments to water utilities. Housing (mortgage or rent) and several other utilities are frequently related to relief (including electric, natural gas, etc.). This implies that money designated for water are shared with monies designated for other fundamental necessities and services, many of which put a significantly greater financial burden on households than water and are expected to get a much bigger proportion of the relief funds.
There are also various eligibility requirements for the various programs. Customers’ eligibility for various programs is affected by whether they are residential or commercial, homeowners or renters, low income or moderate income, and/or are or are not directly affected by the epidemic. This complication is the result of funding multiple existing programs with different goals and priorities, but the distribution of funds across multiple programs actually increases the chances that customers with various characteristics will be eligible for at least one source of financial assistance to help pay their water bills.
Which programs received federal coronavirus relief funds that may be used to help pay for water bills?
Two economic stimulus bills have been passed as of February 2021, with a third being debated. The monies for coronavirus alleviation in the two measures that were passed are summarized in this post.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law in March 2020, included monies for the following, which could be used to help clients pay their water bills in part:
- The Coronavirus Relief Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting people (CARES Act assistance for State, Local, and Tribal Governments)
- CARES Act (Community Development Block Grant) (CDBG-CV)
- CARES Act Grant for Emergency Solutions (ESG-CV)
- Paycheck Protection for Small Businesses
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, was passed in December 2020, and it renewed such programs while also funding:
- Emergency Drinking Water and Wastewater Assistance Program for Low-Income Households (read more below)
- Rental Assistance Program in Case of Emergency
Both of these options provide a large increase in the amount of money available for utility payments.
The first-ever federal program providing financial relief to low-income households exclusively to pay for water and wastewater bills
Among the numerous existing financing schemes pumped with relief funds by the federal government during the pandemic, a totally new program was formed that, for the first time, provides financial help only for water and wastewater costs. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, allocated $638 million to a new nationwide Low-Income Household Drinking Water and Wastewater Emergency Assistance Program in December 2020. The program would help low-income households who pay a large percentage of their income for drinking water and wastewater services by paying the utilities and reducing their arrears and bills. This program’s specifics have yet to be revealed. At the federal level, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will administer the program and distribute the $638 million to states and tribal governments based on the percentage of households in their jurisdictions earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty line and spending more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing.
The eligibility criteria for households, the application process, and even which state agencies or associated groups would be involved in providing aid to homes have yet to be decided. The Act supports the use of existing programs to aid low-income households, but it does not mandate that those programs be focused on water bill payment assistance. To reduce arrears and/or bills, the Act mandates that payments be made directly to the water and wastewater companies on behalf of qualified families.
Water rates have been rising faster than inflation and household income in recent years, so the development of a national low-income household assistance program to help with water bills is great news. More and more families are in need of financial aid to pay their payments, and the COVID-19 economic conditions have exacerbated the problem.
Duplication and coordination
With numerous programs possibly available to help clients pay their water bills, program administrators must document the covered charges’ eligibility and ensure that no assistance is duplicated. To put it another way, users are not “doing double duty” by receiving assistance for the same water bills from multiple programs. Furthermore, the relief agencies will pay the water utilities directly on behalf of the people they are assisting. There will almost certainly be collaboration and communication between the organizations supporting homeowners and their water utilities for both of these reasons.
Where should customers go for help?
Although federal organizations run the coronavirus relief programs, the funding are given to states and territories, a few significant local governments, and tribal governments (see the factsheets from more info and for links to see the allocations). Some of the grantees are managing the funds themselves, while others are collaborating with local governments and/or other groups to give direct support to people.
Aside from the coronavirus relief programs, many water/wastewater utilities, municipal and county departments, charities, Community Action Agencies, and other non-profit organizations had long established bill payment assistance programs to aid low-income households in their communities. We’ve previously written on local customer help programs and whether water companies can fund a bill payment aid program with their own profits. (If your utility is considering launching a bill payment assistance program using funds from any source, you may use this calculator to determine the amount of funding required to meet predicted demand based on your program design.) These community-based services already have procedures in place to verify family needs and support them in paying their expenses. Some may also be collaborating with government agencies in charge of dispensing federal coronavirus relief money.
The variety of assistance programs might cause confusion among individuals and utilities, but it can also improve outreach and support. There are multiple websites that attempt to list the various programs available to help people with their water costs; there are just too many to cover here. In the comments section below, please feel free to recommend relevant links that list several bill payment aid programs.
In most circumstances, users should first check to determine if their water company participates in a bill payment help program or offers additional services to its customers. They should then call local charities and the County’s human services or social services department to learn about groups that may be able to assist persons in need with bill payments. Another option is to call 211 to discover whether your state, territory, or tribal government has a regional assistance program. In North Carolina, for example, United Way and 211 are hosting applications for the state’s NC HOPE program, which was established to handle federal coronavirus relief funding for utility assistance.
Updates, and more coronavirus relief funds on the way?
Water bill payment assistance programs are likely to evolve in the future, and they may receive extra funding. Congress is currently contemplating a third relief plan, which would provide extra financial aid for water bills. Additional funds are presently suggested to complement some of the programs described above (including the Low-Income Household Drinking Water and Wastewater Emergency Support Program) as well as to establish a Homeowner Assistance Fund that might provide assistance with utility bills. We will update the materials and blog as more information becomes available regarding the existing or potential new programs, particularly the Low-Income Household Drinking Water and Wastewater Emergency Assistance Program.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
LIHEAP is a government financed program that assists households with their home energy bills.
Utility bill payment assistance is included in the LIHEAP CARES Act. Select “Utility Bill Payment Help” from the Help for Texans menu. Call toll free 877-399-8939 from a landline between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The toll-free number connects you directly to the service provider in your area.
In California, how can I get assistance with my power bills?
Contact one of these groups if you need assistance paying your utility bills.
- Anaheim Public Utilities is a public utility in Anaheim, California.
- Burbank Water and Power is a water and power company in Burbank, California.
- Palo Alto Utilities is a division of the city of Palo Alto.
- Center for Consumer Energy (for rebates, grants, and loans)
- Community Services and Development Department.
- Water and Power Department of Los Angeles (LADWP)
In Indiana, how can I get assistance with my utility bills?
- Indiana’s Community Action Agencies
- The Energy Assistance Program (EAP) is a government-funded program
- Township offices in Indiana.
- Township Associations in Indiana
- The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is a state agency that regulates utilities in Indiana.
- Indiana Water Companies provides water and sewer services.
- Indiana Electric Companies is a group of companies based in Indiana.
How can I save money on my water bill in New York City?
You can apply online at myBenefits.ny.gov or fill out and submit an application form to your local Department of Social Services. You can also reach out to your local Department of Social Services via the Internet or by contacting the OTDA Hotline at 1-800-342-3009.
Is it still possible to get Lite Up Texas?
Texas Message LITE-UP In August 2016, the LITE-UP Texas discount program came to an end. The LITE-UP Texas Late Penalty Waiver and Deposit Installment Benefits programs expired on August 31, 2017. You can reach us at 1-866-454-8387 for further details.
Open from October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022, for services that have been suspended or are about to be suspended.
Grants are awarded to eligible applicants on a first-come, first-served basis while funds are available.
Sincere Effort of Payment
In the three months before to applying for a grant, applicants must have paid at least $75 on their Cal Water account.
Senior citizens, aged 62 and up, must have made a $50 payment on their accounts during the previous three months to be eligible for a grant.
Other grants and pledges made on an applicant’s behalf do not count toward the sincere attempt of payment. Exceptions may be allowed in exceptional circumstances.
Each utility is only eligible for one grant each program year. (10/1/20219/30/2022)
Grants are awarded based on need, and each family’s situation is unique. The amount of each grant is established on a case-by-case basis.
The application will be denied if a customer’s utility service is off or about to be turned off when they apply, and the maximum grant amount will not restore service or prevent termination. Utility review determines the amount required to restore service or stop a termination. The customer will be notified that their application has been declined and that they must make an additional payment in order to be considered for assistance.
Clients who are income-eligible must apply for all federally supported programs as soon as they become available.
The account must be for a single family home or an apartment. There will be no “kitchen only,” commercial, industrial, or shared utility service apartments.
The total gross household income must be less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
To see if your gross (before tax) income falls within the area of eligibility for our programs, use our Income Calculator.
How to Apply
Calling your utility provider for information on a variety of various assistance programs offered to low-income utility customers is the best place to start looking for aid.
A network of Community Based Organizations works with the Cal Water Cares Hardship Program. Clients can use these dedicated agencies to get their applications processed. You will be referred to an agency in your region after interacting with a Cal Water employee. This organization will complete your help application.
In California, who is eligible for cash assistance?
You must be a California resident and a U.S. citizen, legal immigrant, or qualified alien to be eligible for California CalWORKs. You must be unemployed or underemployed, and your income must be low or very low. You must also be a member of one of the following groups: Have a youngster under the age of 18 years old, or
In California, what is considered low income?
If a person earns less than $47,520 per year, or if a family of four earns less than $97,200 per year, they may be eligible for government assistance. If the family’s household net income is smaller, the family will be eligible for more government aid. Tax deductions might help you earn less money. See the chart below for the Covered California income limitations.
What exactly is Indiana hardship assistance?
The Hardest Hit Fund, which assists families facing foreclosure, was reopened by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. HHF is a mortgage payment help program that can provide up to $30,000 to qualifying Indiana homeowners who are having trouble making their mortgage payments.