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Hochul: Nearly $70 million in water utility assistance for low-income New Yorkers


Mon, Nov 29th 2021 05:25 pm

More than $69 million available Dec. 1 to help struggling households pay past-due drinking water & wastewater bills

√ Federal funding to assist individuals & families facing disconnection when utility shutoff moratorium expires

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced $69.8 million in federal funding will be available beginning Dec. 1 to help low-income New Yorkers pay past-due bills for drinking water and wastewater. Administered by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program provides eligible individuals and families with up $2,500 for drinking water arrears, and $2,500 for wastewater arrears, to help them avoid service interruptions when the moratorium on shutoffs expires next month.

"As New Yorkers make their comeback from the devastating effects of the pandemic, struggling households should never be left wondering whether they will be able to afford critical utilities like water and sewer service," Hochul said. "Over the course of the pandemic, utility affordability has too often become a prohibitive obstacle to the financial stability of a household. This assistance will help ensure New Yorkers do not have to worry about losing these basic necessities as they fight to make ends meet."

The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program is targeted at low-income households – particularly those paying a high proportion of their income for drinking water and wastewater services. The program is expected to serve roughly 105,000 households statewide. Funding is being targeted at those households with service bills that are at least 20 days past-due and will be paid directly to the utility.

Like the Home Energy Assistance Program, eligibility is based on income, household size, and the past-due amount that is owed. For example, a household of four would need to have a gross monthly income of $5,249 or less to qualify.

OTDA Executive Deputy Commissioner Barbara Guinn said, "The cost of water and sewer service is yet another expense that can place a burden on already struggling households. This timely funding will help low-income families and individuals pay back this debt as we all seek to move beyond the negative financial impacts so many experienced as a result of the public health crisis."

Applications will be accepted online and by mail starting Dec. 1. For more information, including on how to apply, visit otda.ny.gov/lihwap. Those enrolled in the Home Energy Assistance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, in receipt of Temporary Assistance or living alone and receiving Supplemental Security Income are categorically eligible, but still need to apply for assistance.

Surveys conducted by OTDA indicate the number of households with past-due water bills can range up to 15% in some regions of the state, with average arrears of about $250. Nationally, the average combined drinking water and sewer bill is $1,200 per year, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

Drinking water and wastewater are utility connections that are protected under the utility shutoff moratorium, which extends through late December. Regulated utilities also agreed to hold off on any pending service disconnections through the New Year holiday.

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