City Unveils New Water Shutoff Protections
New policies will protect residential customers unable to pay water bills. #UtilityFairsPHL events and ongoing outreach will help customers enroll in assistance programs and avoid losing service
PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia today announced a new set of shutoff policies this week designed to ensure that residents who cannot afford to pay will not lose water service. These new policies will be in effect as the city resumes residential shutoffs on Monday, July 18 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) will be implementing a multi-pronged approach to ensure customers who are unable pay their water bills get the assistance they need and maintain water service.
The policy changes now in effect 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. PWD and WRB will continue to monitor the impact of the shut off policies and existing programs that protect customers with financial or medical hardships.
Customer Assistance & State Grants
PWD and WRB have enhanced communications and outreach to provide additional information to customers who receive shutoff notices, directing them to the Tiered Assistance Program, payment agreements, and other services and resources. Furthermore, PWD and WRB expanded assistance programs to include options like debt forgiveness and expanded payment agreements that make catching up easier.
“These additional protections and the data matching program are exciting opportunities to expand assistance program enrollment,” said Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin. “This effort bolsters Mayor Kenney’s pledge to create a more racially equitable city and reinforces Revenue’s commitment that all Philadelphians should feel financially stable.”
“Applying for assistance now can help customers avoid losing water service and having to pay restoration fees,” said Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman. “We showed our dedication to our customers over these last two challenging years and want to keep the water on in every home. For those still having trouble with water bills, I encourage you to please reach out to get into our assistance programs.”
Customers can request an application or apply for assistance at phila.gov/water-bill-help 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. A map of more than 20 partner locations where residents can get in-person help with water assistance applications can be found at phillyh2o.info/help-map.
Residents with past-due water bills may also be eligible for grants from the new Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, while federal funding lasts. Customers may receive up to $5,000 towards delinquent water bills and can learn more or apply at dhs.pa.gov/waterhelp.
An alternative program through the Pennsylvania Homeowners Assistance Fund provides assistance for delinquent water and sewer bills, among others. The maximum utility assistance is capped at $8,000. Homeowners can find out if they qualify at pahaf.org.
Philadelphia water customers may also qualify for assistance and grants from the Utilities Emergency Service Funds program at uesfacts.org, or by calling (215) 814-6837.
Personalized Utility Bill Help
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 (#UtilityFairsPHL), 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 at water.phila.gov/utility-fairs.
Since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the City of Philadelphia has implemented various programs and measures to support residents in need. For comprehensive information about all the water assistance available visit: water.phila.gov/drops/assistance/.