DETROIT – On Tuesday, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) Director Gary Brown joined Mayor Mike Duggan to announce the intention to permanently end water service interruptions in the City of Detroit.
Currently, through several available funding sources, water service will be maintained for residents who do not have the ability to pay through at least 2022.
The highly successful program was launched with the support of Governor Gretchen Whitmer last March.
“My goal now is stop water shutoffs to low-income Detroiters once and for all,” Duggan said. “We have secured the funding necessary to continue this effort through 2022 and we are building a coalition to make this permanent.”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said, “This is good news for Detroiters across the city. I was proud to partner with Mayor Duggan to end water shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and am grateful for his leadership and the leadership of the water advocacy community as they work to end these shutoffs once and for all. I urge our leaders in Lansing to follow suit and pass Senate Bill 241, the Water Shutoff Protection Act, to protect Michiganders across the state from water shutoffs during the pandemic. My administration will continue working to ensure every Michigander can give their child a glass of water at the dinner table, and I look forward to partnering with everyone, from the Biden Administration to state and local government, to get it done.”
Duggan was also joined by Dr. Abdul El-Sayed – the city’s former public health director and water access advocate – to announce his support for the effort and plans to work with the Duggan administration to locate new funding to prevent residential water service interruptions, for nonpayment, on a permanent basis.
Dr. El-Sayed said, “Water is public health. And, as a former city health director and water rights advocate, I am proud to join Mayor Duggan today as he announces the city’s intention to end residential water shutoffs permanently. This is a victory for the city, it’s residents, and the advocates who’ve been leading on this effort for years. And to achieve it, we’re going to need to align advocates with state and federal lawmakers and City leadership to find the funds. All of us against water shutoffs.”
Service restored at 1,300 homes since March 9
DWSD Director Gary Brown noted that the COVID-19 Water Restart Plan, launched on March 9, has restored water service at nearly 1,300 occupied homes, many of which needed plumbing repairs. The City has set aside sufficient state, federal, private, and local funds to continue the moratorium on water service interruptions even after the health departments orders end on December 31.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, DWSD has helped thousands of financially insecure households with water bills and emergency plumbing repairs. By the end of December, $22 Million is expected to be spent, $15 Million of which has been for bill credits to nearly 50,000 Detroit households. DWSD has 227,000 active residential accounts.
“The water shutoff moratoriums issued by health departments end in 23 days,” said Director Brown. “We have chosen to ensure that residential households that do not have the ability to pay have the resources for help and maintain service through at least 2022 while we work on permanent water affordability solutions at the state and federal levels. The infrastructure is in place through DWSD and our community partners to continue to provide compassionate and effective customer affordability programs to financially insecure Detroit households, now and through the implementation of long-term solutions.”
Coalition committed to find a permanent solution to prevent water shutoffs
The COVID-19 Water Restart Plan, the CARES Act and Michigan Senate Bill 690 provided temporary relief during the pandemic. The next step is to work on a permanent solution for water affordability. Detroit will be a leader at the state level and nationally.
“The federal government currently actively prevents gas and electric shutoffs of low-income Americans through the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP),” Duggan said. “But there is no comparable program for water bills. We’re going to be part of a national coalition to support the efforts of Senator Gary Peters to extend utility shutoff support for water.”
Detroit has joined a coalition of cities from around the country, including Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Alexandria, Baltimore, Louisville, Sacramento and Washington, DC to create a policy platform on national water affordability initiatives focusing primarily on LIWAP (Low-Income Water Assistance Program) and include plumbing repairs.
Affordability programs exist in Detroit and are accessible today
Customer affordability programs have been in existence since 2016, with some additional resources over the past few years from community partners.
- WRAP, the Water Residential Assistance Program, has helped more than 18,000 households get to an average bill through paying down arrears, monthly bill credit and minor home plumbing repairs. Now, as of July 1, households earning at or below 200% of the federal poverty level are eligible to apply – that’s $52,000 annual income for a family of four versus $36,000 last year. This also expended minor home plumbing repairs to $1,500 on average and financial assistance – opening it up to at least 5,000 more Detroit households annually.
- More than $1M is uncommitted in WRAP funds through the end of this fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.
- The Great Lakes Water Authority board allocation for WRAP is expected to be $9.2M regionally through 2022, with at least an additional $3.8M earmarked for Detroit.
- The 10/30/50 Plan allows residents to enroll safely in the payment plan online and by phone. The 10/30/50 Plan has unlimited enrollment availability for households who need help paying down a balance but do not meet the WRAP income eligibility.
- The City of Detroit’s Community Health Corps will help residents living in extreme poverty situations who need wraparound services by continuing going door-to-door.
Contact DWSD’s community partner to apply for assistance
The plan announced Tuesday is not payment amnesty. Residential households will continue to generate their full water and sewer charges based on monthly usage, and the drainage charge, using current rates. DWSD plans to leverage local, state, federal and philanthropic resources to fill the gap to ensure residents who cannot pay today are able to maintain water service. Residential households who have the ability to pay should continue to pay their monthly bill to support maintaining and improving the water and sewer systems for you and all of Detroit.
How to join program
Detroiters with low income can join the program and avoid any interruption of service by contacting Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency at 313-386-9727 or visit www.waynemetro.org.
92 percent of Detroit households regularly pay their water bills
DWSD recognizes Detroit residents who are making payments on a monthly basis. You not only support the delivering of clean water, safely collecting untreated sewage, and enabling the modernization of the 100-year-old system, you are also allowing those residents facing income insecurity during these tough times to have access to funding through DWSD and its community partners.
Brown added, “We appreciate our customers for supporting the system and water affordability. We also want to thank the hard working DWSD employees and their families who have been impacted by this pandemic. Many of our field service technicians have been on the front lines since the pandemic began, helping our customers resolve issues in the neighborhoods. Because of their commitment, they risk their own health and their families’ health as they go to work every day to continue our reliable and affordable water and sewer services in Detroit despite the pandemic. We are grateful for what they do and thank each one and their families.”