Jackson residents with overdue and eligible water bills can get some relief through a program to catch up on overdue bills and get potential debt relief.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba detailed the plan on Monday, which will allow the city to draw up payment plans giving customers extra time to pay their water bills. It will come into effect on July 19.
Lumumba said the program applies to low-income residents, those with water problems related to faulty equipment, and residents affected by weather events.
The city’s water customers owe more than $ 100 million in unpaid bills. Collecting this money is widely seen as essential for the city. The money could be used for widespread infrastructure issues with the water system and invested in installing a new system, including water meters, other equipment and software “from scratch.” âSaid Lumumba.
“The city’s water problems have been well documented …” Lumumba said during a press briefing at town hall. âI ask all residents to be part of the program. If you qualify for the low income program, you can expect to turn the page.
For those with significant debt, the plan will allow residents to pay a monthly amount with an additional $ 10 over several months to cover overdue bills. As long as the resident pays on time, some debts can be canceled, Lumumba said.
âAs a city, we’d rather get 50% of someone’s bill than 100% of nothing,â Lumumba said.
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Meanwhile, Lumumba warned that those who haven’t received a water bill can expect to see one in the near future. He said the city’s 14,000 or so water customers considered “stranded”, or not receiving a bill, can expect to pay a flat rate. The package remains to be determined. The city has 43,000 water customers.
The mayor said that with a plan in place, the city will resume water cuts again from September 1.
A moratorium on water cuts to non-paying customers was put in place during the pandemic. When that deadline expired, the city continued its own moratorium policy as a three-member council committee met to discuss the details of the payment plan.
“For all those people who came to see me year after year and told me that I had not received a bill or that my water bill was too high, I ask you to be part of this program”, said Lumumba.
The plan’s announcement comes nearly 10 years after the city signed its $ 89 million contract with Siemens Industry Inc. and several Jackson contractors to overhaul the billing system. This contract guaranteed savings but resulted in widespread problems with the system that persist.
The inability to collect water revenue has been the city’s biggest financial challenge, resulting in shortages of several million dollars each year. It has also affected the city’s bond rating since Jackson was forced to borrow from his general fund to cover deficits.
A new system would have automated meters capable of collecting and storing water billing information remotely and also allowing customers to view and pay their bill by mobile phone, as well as start or transfer service. online.
Governor Tate Reeves signed the Water Forgiveness Bill in April after vetoing a similar bill the year before. Reeves said he wanted to make sure there were some guarantees in the final version.
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