Low-income New Yorkers can get help paying their overdue water bills

New York State has opened its federally funded program to help low-income residents pay overdue water bills during the pandemic.

The $ 69.8 million program allows all New York households to pay up to $ 2,500 for a wastewater or drinking water bill, or $ 5,000 for both, according to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, or OTDA.

About 105,000 households statewide can benefit from the program. Nationally, the combined average bill for water and sewerage is around $ 1,200 per year, according to a press release from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, citing statistics from the US Department of Labor.

“We know that many Rockland residents are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and this program is another way the government is helping people bounce back,” County Executive Ed Day said in a report on Friday. communicated.

The state’s program, which began on Wednesday, was funded by the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act and the US bailout.

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OTDA surveys suggest that parts of New York state have up to 15% of households with overdue water bills, with an average amount owed at around $ 250, the Hochul office said. . In its plan to implement the grant to the US Department of Health and Human Services, state officials fear that households that currently have water disconnected could flood the program.

The state currently has a moratorium on shutting down public services extended until the end of December for households unable to pay their bills for reasons related to the pandemic. Regulated utilities have also agreed to suspend pending service disconnections during the New Year’s holidays, the Hochul office said.

“During the pandemic, the affordability of utilities has too often become a prohibitive barrier to a household’s financial stability,” Hochul said in a statement. “This help will help ensure that New Yorkers don’t have to worry about losing these basic necessities as they fight to make ends meet.”

Eligibility for the Low-Income Water Program is based on income, household size, amount owed, and whether the household includes U.S. citizens, nationals, or other eligible individuals.

A four-person household is capped at $ 5,249 monthly income.

Households receiving benefits from the Home Energy Assistance Program, Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, or Temporary Assistance benefits may be eligible. It also applies to those who receive assistance through Supplementary Security Income living alone, under Code A.

Residents must pay a supplier directly for the use of drinking water or wastewater.

Water bills must be at least 20 days late. Households may also be eligible if they have a water lien levied on local property taxes. This also applies to those whose drinking water or sewage, or both, has been interrupted or is at risk of being disconnected because bills have not been paid.

Residents can apply online or by mail.

For more information or to apply, visit https://otda.ny.gov/programs/water-assistance/ or call the state’s free hotline at 1-800-342-3009.

Eduardo Cuevas covers diversity, equity and inclusion in Westchester and Rockland counties. He can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @eduardomcuevas.

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