This post was written by Brian Rademaekers, Public Information Officer, Philadelphia Water Department
The City of Philadelphia shared a new set of shutoff policies designed to make sure that residents who cannot pay bills will still have water services.
These new policies will be in effect as the City resumes residential shutoffs after two years of a COVID-19 pandemic moratorium on residential shutoffs.
Consistent with the Kenney administration’s commitment to reversing government practices that have contributed to racial inequities and to improving the economic wellbeing and health of all Philadelphians, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and Water Revenue Bureau (WRB) are working on several fronts to ensure customers who are unable pay their water bills get the assistance they need and can maintain water service.
New and expanded protections against service suspension include:
- The level of delinquency that triggers a shutoff notice has been raised from $150 to $1,000.
- Customers currently enrolled in the Tiered Assistance Program (TAP) are exempt from shutoff.
- Customers currently enrolled in the Senior Citizen Discount program are exempt from shutoff.
- Customers who have applied for Customer Assistance are exempt from shutoff.
As an additional safeguard, the City will use internal data to match enrollment data from other low-income assistance programs and provide exemptions to those households.
The data matching process will be done by the newly established Office for Integrated Data for Evidence and Action in the Managing Director’s Office. These policy changes are designed to focus enforcement on customers that can pay their bills while protecting vulnerable residents.
Getting help: customer assistance and state grants
In addition to suspending shutoffs, Philadelphia strengthened assistance programs over the last two years to include options like debt forgiveness and expanded payment agreements that make catching up easier.
Anyone having trouble paying their water bill should apply for help. Assistance programs are designed to help customers who are:
- Low income.
- Having a special hardship that makes it difficult to pay their water bills.
A single application is used for all programs, and customers can request an application or apply for assistance online or by calling (215) 685-6300.
Applications can also be printed and submitted at the Municipal Services Building at 1401 JFK Blvd., Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents can also view this map of more than 20 partner locations to learn where they can get in-person help with water assistance applications.
State programs for water bills
Residents with past-due water bills may also be eligible for grants from the new Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), a COVID-19 relief effort administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. Customers may receive up to $5,000 towards delinquent water bills.
An alternative program through the Pennsylvania Homeowners Assistance Fund provides assistance to resolve delinquent payments for utility services, including water and sewer bills among others. The maximum utility assistance is capped at $8,000. Homeowners can find out if they qualify online.
While each state program offers support, residents cannot benefit from both programs to relieve the same debts. Residents should evaluate which program is best for them.
Personalized utility bill help events in June
Philadelphia utility customers who are behind on bills will have a special opportunity to get personalized help enrolling in assistance programs at six upcoming events taking place in June 2022.
Organized by the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) in partnership with PECO and Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), the events encourage residents to apply for customer assistance now.
The Utility Fairs, which make it easier to get past barriers to successfully filling out paperwork and forms, follow a popular series of similar outreach events that took place this winter and saw hundreds of participants sign up for sessions with customer assistance experts.
Virtual events will be held over Zoom every Wednesday in June from 4–8 p.m. and are by appointment only.
An in-person Utility Fair will also take place at the Community of Compassion CDC:
Saturday, June 25 from 10 a.m.– 2 p.m.
Community of Compassion CDC, 6150 Cedar Ave., Phila. Pa., 19143
Customers must select an appointment time for both the virtual and in-person events by registering.