Several emergency programs to help D.C. residents struggling to pay water, gas and electric bills due to the coronavirus pandemic have been developed by the District government and the utility companies. Benefits include a range of reduced rates, extended payment plans and even one-time grants of up to $2,000.
In general, District policy is that utilities won’t be shut off when bills aren’t paid and late fees won’t be charged when accounts become overdue. But arrangements for reduced rates and emergency grants have to be made individually by residential customers via an application process.
Eligibility factors, which also determine the amount of the discount and/or grant, include household size, household income, heating source and type of dwelling. Applications — which can be completed online or mailed in — require documentation of residency and loss of income due to the pandemic, along with details of prior utility usage and costs. According to DC Water, “Eligible households with unpaid DC Water bills during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency and 105 days thereafter, may receive bill assistance up to $2,000 as a one-time emergency benefit.”
In addition, households eligible for Customer Assistance Programs will receive a discount on the first 300 or 400 cubic feet of water and sewer services used each month, with some exceptions. They will also receive a 50-percent reduction in the monthly Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge and a Water System Replacement Fee waiver, a discount of approximately between $15 and $65 a month.
DC Water will hold a virtual town hall meeting for Ward 2 residents on Tuesday, June 23, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting, to discuss proposed rates, current projects and issues impacting the community, will be co-hosted by CEO David Gadis. To participate using Microsoft Teams, visit dcwater.com/ward2townhall. Phone participation is available by calling 202-753-6714. The conference ID is: 476 175 386#.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which distributes Department of Energy & Environment funds for heating and cooling grants to help qualified applicants pay their energy bills, has been expanded. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, states were provided additional funds to the amount of $900 million to provide payment assistance for qualified applicants,” according to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office.
Eligible households may receive energy bill assistance of between $250 and $1,800 as a one-time benefit based on household size, household income, heating source and type of dwelling.
Some cable, auto and credit cards companies are also providing financial relief to those suffering income loss due to the pandemic. Customers who contact their providers during the public health emergency may arrange for deferred payments, a temporary halt in late fees and the lifting of credit freezes.