PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Water Department is preparing to turn off service to customers who don’t pay their bills, ending one of the longest COVID-19 shut-off moratoriums in the country.
City officials are emphasizing a broad array of assistance programs meant to protect those who can’t afford their bills.
Susan Crosby, the deputy revenue commissioner for the Water Revenue Bureau, said water shut-off notices have been redesigned to highlight the ways to avoid a shut-off.
“Our new shut-off notice has all our customer assistance information right on top where it’s easier to see,” said Crosby.
Shut-off notices will go out on June 10, and shut-offs will begin on July 18, more than two years after the city halted the practice to protect residents during COVID-19. At the time, they restored service to those who had been shut off.
But Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner and CEO Randy Hayman said there is no reason anyone should be shut off, thanks to expanded assistance programs.
“Our goal is to keep the water on for all customers because we know how much we all depend on it,” said Hayman.
“We need those who can pay their bill to do so, and those who cannot pay their water bill, we strongly encourage them to enroll in the proper program so we can help.”
First, the city said it is raising the amount of money owed that triggers a shut-off from $150 to $1,000. Customers who enroll in or even apply to the TAP (Tiered Assistance Program) or senior discount programs are exempt.
The city will also match customer information with data on other low-income programs, such as Medicaid or homelessness prevention, and exempt those customers. There are also state programs such as the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Programs.
Crosby said these moves will assure funding for water service while protecting low-income customers.
“We believe that these new protections will help many people who cannot afford to pay to maintain their water service,” said Crosby. She added that changes to assistance programs will reduce the number of customers in danger of shut-off from about 70,000 to around 20,000.
Those in need of assistance can also print their application, fill it out and submit it at the Municipal Services Building at 1401 JFK Blvd. on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or at one of 20 partner locations.