With 1,702 residential water customers behind on paying water bills, the City of Jackson is expanding a program that helps residents with unpaid water bills. The Jackson City Council recently voted to allocate an additional $121,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to its Water Shutoff Protection Program and allow low-income renters to apply for assistance.
The program, which now totals $246,000 in available funds, is open to both low-income homeowners and low-income tenants who are responsible for paying water bills in their lease. Previously, only low-income homeowners were eligible for the program. The Utility Billing Division of the City’s Water Department has identified 1,702 residential customers who are currently in “shut off status”. That means if the City was still performing water shutoffs they would be losing water service due to unpaid bills.
That number has increased from two months ago, when 1,531 customers were in shut off status. These are sizable numbers considering there are just over 14,000 customers in the water system. With the division seeing a large increase in unpaid bills since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the City believes the failure to pay is connected to financial hardships created by the COVID-19 crisis.
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 is working with the Community Action Agency to administer its Water Shutoff Protection Program.
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, it’s important for residents to know that charges for water usage are still accumulating and residents continue to be responsible for paying bills or applying for assistance.
The City continues to inform the residents about the help that’s available through community partners, CodeRED messages, social media posts, newsletter mailers, and website information.