The Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity is preparing to launch a massive debt relief program this month to help hundreds of thousands of customers who have been financially affected by the COVID pandemic. 19 and who are struggling with unpaid invoices.
The utility said it plans to use around $ 300 million in economic aid funds to help reduce amounts owed – and in some cases entirely eliminated – by more than 250,000 eligible customers.
Officials are touting the initiative as the city’s largest debt relief effort ever for utility customers, according to a DWP press release.
The city plan involves using a mix of state, federal, and local funds to help cash-strapped residents who are facing growing DWP bills.
Of the money distributed, the vast majority – around $ 285 million – is expected to come from the state, which has earmarked pandemic relief funds specifically for municipal utilities, the statement said.
These funds will be used to help pay overdue water and electricity bills between the period March 4, 2020 and June 15, 2021, and are primarily intended for customers who have suffered wage cuts and lost wages. jobs related to the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has dealt a devastating blow to our residents, affecting their livelihoods and undermining their economic security, and it is our responsibility to help them overcome this crisis,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. âNo one who is struggling to make ends meet should face new challenges, and this new program will provide essential financial relief to help the hard-working Angelenos get back on their feet. “
Under the leadership of Garcetti and the LA City Council, DWP will spend an additional $ 15 million to further assist customers in arrears before or after the state’s eligibility period.
According to the release, up to 80,000 clients of the low-income reduction program will receive up to an additional $ 500 in debt relief.
The state’s pandemic relief funds will be made available in the coming weeks and clients will not need to apply for debt relief assistance. Instead, a credit will appear on utility bills for customers with eligible overdue balances, officials said.
Those who continue to owe money to DWP after the credits are applied will also be eligible for additional financial assistance, including extended repayment plans.
To that end, DWP will begin this month offering extensive utility bill payment options to those who need long-term assistance, giving them more time to pay overdue bills without incurring any expense. interests. The utility’s Low Income and Lifeline rebate program will extend the reimbursement period for participants from two to four years.
Other eligible customers will have three years to repay overdue balances, whereas they only had one before, the utility added.
Customers who cannot afford their bills will also have more time to pay them before their services close, as the Council of Water and Electricity Commissioners voted last week to extend a moratorium on the closure of public services until March 31, 2021.
DWP customers who may qualify for the Low Income Utility Discount Program are encouraged to visit www.ladwp.com/assistancefinanciÃ¨re.
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