Water bill help available for people living in Everett

The city increased how much financial aid customers can receive and expanded who qualifies.

EVERETT — More people are now eligible for hundreds of dollars in financial aid to pay for their water bills.

The City of Everett added to the pool of possible customers who can use the program by increasing the maximum household income and the annual cap for assistance.

“Our program is meant to help customers who need financial assistance, and we have capacity to help more people than we had been reaching,” Everett Public Works director Ryan Sass said in a statement. “Especially during this difficult economic time, we hope that by making these adjustments, we’ll open the program to more customers and bring more eligible customer accounts current.”

There are eligibility requirements. It’s only for residential customers in city limits who have a direct water service connection, received a disconnection notice or “friendly reminder” letter, and have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. That equals $52,400 for a household of four people.

In 2018, median household income in Everett was $57,205, and about 15% of the city’s residents were in poverty, according to U.S. Census data.

The program’s yearly maximum assistance was raised to $500, and the city has $100,000 available for the program. That money comes from utility rates.

Last year, 93 customers used the financial assistance at an average of $323.73.

Everett provides water for much of Snohomish County and has 28,569 active water accounts.

Between Feb. 1 and April 30, the city issued 15,002 “friendly reminder” letters to customers with late payments. During the same period last year, Everett sent 17,473 late notices and mailed 63,682 such letters for all of 2019, according to data provided by the city.

The city disconnected water service to 359 homes between January and April last year, and 336 in the same stretch this year. In March, Everett issued a moratorium on utility shutoffs because of late or missed payment in response to wage loss. The city council also approved the deferral or waiving of late fees.

Unemployment surged after coronavirus epidemic-related orders shuttered businesses and people stayed home. Since March, more than 112,000 workers in the county filed for state aid because they were laid off, furloughed or had their hours reduced.

Catholic Community Services runs the water utility assistance program, including application evaluations. The staff are available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for in-person help at 1918 Everett Ave. or by phone at 425-257-2111.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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