With job layoffs and various economic strains, the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many Jackson residents. The City of Jackson believes these tough times could be causing residents to fall behind on water bills. The City wants residents to know that help is available for those struggling to pay water bills and the time to act is now.
The Utility Billing Division of the City’s Water Department has identified 1,531 residential customers who are currently behind on paying water bills. That’s a sizable number considering there are just over 14,000 customers in our water system. With the division seeing a large increase in unpaid bills since the pandemic started, the City believes the failure to pay is connected to financial hardships created by the COVID-19 crisis.
This week, the City is reaching out to these customers through the CodeRED mass notification system. The customers will receive phone and email messages letting them know they’re behind on payments and how they can get help. The first step for getting assistance is contacting Utility Billing by calling 517-788- 4082 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. From there, customers can find out how much they owe in water bills, set up a payment plan, or be referred to other organizations for assistance.
The City of Jackson is working with the Community Action Agency to use federal COVID-19 relief funds for water shutoff protection. $756,000 is coming to Jackson from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. So far, $125,000 of the CARES funds has been allocated for helping residents avoid water shutoffs.
When the COVID-19 crisis started in March, City officials halted water shutoffs to aid public health. While the City does not have any plans to resume shutoffs anytime soon, charges for water usage are still accumulating. “We know our water customers may be struggling financially right now and we’re here to help,” said Utility Billing Supervisor Barb Matthes. “Please contact the Water Department’s Utility Billing Division, we will provide information and point you in the right direction to apply for available funds so that you can avoid a large balance due or possible service disruption at a later date.”
The City is also using CARES funds for foreclosure prevention and eviction protection through the Community Action Agency.