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State launches water relief program | News, Sports, Jobs - Energy And Water Development Corp

State launches water relief program | News, Sports, Jobs

Struggling families in danger of having their water shut off due to non-payment have a new avenue for relief.

Funded by the American Rescue Plan, the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program provides grants to pay overdue water and sewer bills.

Families who qualify financially can receive one crisis grant of up to $2,500 to pay water bills and one crisis grant of up to $2,500 to pay sewer bills, according to the state Department of Health website.

The temporary program began taking applications Monday via; through paper applications downloaded from the compass website; by phone through the Statewide Customer Service Center at 877-395-8930; and in person at the county assistance office.

Applicants must state the number of people in their households and the dates of birth, Social Security numbers and proof of income for all household members; and must provide a recent water bill, according to the website.

Income limits are $19,320 for a household of one; $26,130 for a household of two; $32,940 for a household of three; $39,750 for a household of four — with an additional $6,810 for each additional household member.

The program pays the utilities directly.

The Altoona Water Authority has enrolled, according to authority Billing Director Ron Becher.

“Any time there’s another option for customers where they can get help, it benefits everybody,” Becher said. “We can refer our customers that have delinquencies.”

The authority already refers such customers to agencies such as Blair Senior Services, the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities, while advising them also to call the PA211 social services helpline, Becher said.

The authority sends out between 1,300 and 1,500 shut off notices per month to customers whose bills have become two months’ delinquent.

Most are residential customers, he said.

“We don’t shut all those off,” Becher said. “Some wait until they get (the notices before paying), I guess.”

Still, authority workers generally go out three days a week on shutoff duty and often average between 20 or 30 shutoffs per day those days, Becher said.

Snow and staffing issues can lead to shut off delays, Becher said.

There is a $105 reconnection fee.

The authority has 23,000 water and 20,000 sewer customers, Becher said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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