Gregory J. Nickels (former Mayor)
7/13/2005 11:00:00 AM
Seattle Public Utilities implements
Emergency Assistance Program
Pilot program will assist eligible customers with their water bill
SEATTLE - Low-income people who face an immediate water service shut-off may qualify for an emergency assistance pilot project that could cover half of their utility bill.
At the direction of Mayor Greg Nickels and the City Council, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) will implement a program that will run from July 18 to December 31, 2005. The objective of the emergency assistance pilot is to help citizens in need and gather data that will shape a long-term strategy to help SPU customers who are at risk of having their water shut off.
“Rate assistance can help a water customer on their next bill, but we can’t help them today,” said Nickels. “This pilot program will allow us to start helping people with their water bill immediately, and will help us build a strong program for the future.”
The program is available residential customers who have incomes at 125 percent of the poverty level and who live within city limits. For example, a family of three with an income of $1,676 per month, or $20,115 per year, is at 125 percent of the poverty level. Single-family households who are accepted into the program may receive an emergency credit of up to half of their delinquent bill, with a maximum credit of $200.
“Until this fund was created, people have had no place to turn for help to pay for the most basic requirement of life. Now, Seattle will be able to help disabled people, senior citizens and families who have fallen on hard times and who are struggling to make ends meet," said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who initiated a review of SPU assistance programs last fall as part of the Council’s budget process.
“We can’t have a safety net for citizens in trouble if the net has holes in it. This measure shows we are willing to make sure that both of Seattle’s large utilities can help those in economic distress,” said Councilmember Jim Compton.
SPU’s Residential Services Team will review each applicant’s eligibility, and applications for this program will require income verification.
Interested individuals may call SPU at (206) 684-5800. Households that already qualify for low-income energy assistance programs may also qualify for this pilot program.
“Most of these families struggle each month to make a mortgage or rental payment and are already tapping into other public benefit programs in order to survive,” said Patricia McInturff, director of the Seattle Human Services Department. “Seattle Public Utilities’ pilot project will provide tremendous help to many Seattle families who are facing the loss of services due to financial crises.”
Customers in financial crisis must currently rely on friends, families, and non-profit agencies for help with their water and sewage bills.
“It's a great blessing, the help that I received from Senior Services' Caregiver fund,” said Claudine Adams, a 68 year old grandmother caring for three minor children. “I really don't know what I would have done. My water would probably still be off. They need more programs to help provide assistance to pay water bills because there are a lot of places that help with light bills. It's a great thing. I thank God for the help.”
The fund for the pilot totals $50,000. Once funding for this pilot program
is exhausted, no additional funds are available until decisions are made for
a long-term solution. SPU anticipates the implementation of a permanent financial
assistance program in 2006.
“Data from this pilot will provide a framework for a long-term emergency assistance program,” said Chuck Clarke, SPU Director. “A good assistance program will help SPU meet our social and environmental goals, while being financially prudent. It’s the right thing to do.”
In addition to providing more than 1.3 million customers in the Seattle metropolitan area with a reliable water supply, SPU provides essential sewer, drainage, solid waste and engineering services that safeguard public health, maintain the City’s infrastructure and protect, conserve and enhance the region's environmental resources.
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