Gov. Hochul Announces Nearly $70 Million in Water Utility Assistance for Low-Income New Yorkers

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Press release from governor.ny.gov

Governor Kathy Hochul announced that $69.8 million in federal funding will be available beginning December 1 to help low-income New Yorkers pay past-due bills for drinking water and wastewater. Administered by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program provides eligible individuals and families with up $2,500 for drinking water arrears and $2,500 for wastewater arrears to help them avoid service interruptions when the moratorium on shutoffs expires next month.

“As New Yorkers make their comeback from the devastating effects of the pandemic, struggling households should never be left wondering whether they will be able to afford critical utilities like water and sewer service,” Governor Hochul said. “Over the course of the pandemic, utility affordability has too often become a prohibitive obstacle to the financial stability of a household. This assistance will help ensure New Yorkers do not have to worry about losing these basic necessities as they fight to make ends meet.”

The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program is targeted at low-income households – particularly those paying a high proportion of their income for drinking water and wastewater services. The program is expected to serve roughly 105,000 households statewide. Funding is being targeted at those households with service bills that are at least 20 days past-due and will be paid directly to the utility.

Like the Home Energy Assistance Program, eligibility is based on income, household size, and the past-due amount that is owed. For example, a household of four would need to have a gross monthly income of $5,249 or less to qualify.

OTDA Executive Deputy Commissioner Barbara Guinn said, “The cost of water and sewer service is yet another expense that can place a burden on already struggling households. This timely funding will help low-income families and individuals pay back this debt as we all seek to move beyond the negative financial impacts so many experienced as a result of the public health crisis.”

Representative Yvette Clarke said, “With the moratorium on water shutoffs ending, I sincerely applaud this much needed funding for low-income New Yorkers facing difficulties with their past due drinking and wastewater bills. Universal access to drinking water and wastewater cannot only be an aspiration, it must be the minimum our communities deserve and the standard we must deliver. And this support will make a lasting difference for all New Yorkers working to overcome financial hardships, including the impact of COVID-19. I am deeply proud to see our state inch closer towards permanently protecting the people’s right to water in this nation. We are humanely preserving water access for approximately 105,000 households across our state through this funding, and I thank Governor Hochul for her leadership and advocacy on this important issue. I look forward to furthering this fight for universal water access.”

Representative Paul Tonko said, “Water affordability is a challenge for many New York families, which has only become exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health crisis. Congress provided water utility assistance funding in recent COVID relief packages, and I will continue pushing for federal funding that ensures every American has access to safe, clean water. I applaud Governor Hochul’s efforts to provide this much-needed relief for those struggling to afford these most essential water services.”

Representative Kathleen Rice said, “This federal funding will provide critical relief to struggling households, helping them avoid drinking and wastewater service interruptions. I commend the Governor for making these funds available as many families across New York State are still recovering from the economic effects of the pandemic.”

State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud said, “The ongoing pandemic has laid bare the struggles of so many New Yorkers. This critical funding will provide timely assistance to those households that have fallen behind on their utility bills, so they can begin on the path to recovery. I applaud Governor Hochul’s leadership as we continue to navigate the economic impact of this global health crisis.”

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal said, “Families across the state are still struggling to pay rent, cover utilities and put food on their tables, making it all the more critical that New York makes assistance available to those in need. While families have been temporarily protected by a utility shutoff moratorium, more robust assistance is needed to help families pay past due bills and prevent utility shut offs soon after the moratorium expires. This much-needed funding from the federal government will be a lifeline for New Yorkers who are behind on drinking water and wastewater utility bills and help them to get back on track.”

Applications will be accepted online and by mail starting December 1. For more information, including on how to apply, visit otda.ny.gov/lihwap. Those enrolled in the Home Energy Assistance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, in receipt of Temporary Assistance or living alone and receiving Supplemental Security Income are categorically eligible, but still need to apply for assistance.

Surveys conducted by OTDA indicate that the number of households with past-due water bills can range up to 15 percent in some regions of the state, with average arrears of about $250. Nationally, the average combined drinking water and sewer bill is $1,200 per year, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

Drinking water and wastewater are utility connections that are protected under the utility shutoff moratorium, which extends through late December. Regulated utilities also agreed to hold off on any pending service disconnections through the New Year holiday.