New Water Bill Assistance Will Help Assure Affordability
Tuesday Jun 11th, 2019
The Baltimore H2O Assists program, an income-based plan set to take effect July 1, is a sound and generous way of addressing the genuine concerns over water bill affordability confronting the City’s most economically fragile households.
Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) has designed the program so that it drives down a “typical” bill for a family of three from about $98 per month to about $61 per month. An additional credit – called BH2O+, for households at or below 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines – will cut the bill by another $20 per month.
A report released today by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund states that water/sewer bills should be below 2 percent of household income in order to be considered affordable. DPW’s figures show that a family of three enrolled in the BH2O Assists program will pay just 1.6 percent of the median household income toward water bills, including the sewer and stormwater charges. That is well below the NAACP’s recommendation.
Here are a few key facts to know about Baltimore H2O Assists:
- Customers will be eligible if their income is at or below 175% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines,* the same as household energy and other assistance programs.
- There is no age restriction to enroll, as there has been for the Senior Discount program.
- BH2O Assists is proactive, so customers will be eligible BEFORE they fall behind on their bills, unlike the existing Low-Income Grant program.
- Customers whose household size is just 1 or 2 persons will be eligible if their income is within the 3 person household amount ($37,328).* This will ensure a LARGER, more expansive eligibility that helps the smallest households.
- Eligibility for households larger than 3 people will be based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines.*
- Charges for water and sewer usage will get a 43% discount.
- The Bay Restoration and Stormwater Remediation fees will not be applied.
- Under the BH2O+ Program, households whose income is at or below 50% of the Federal Poverty Level (currently $10,665 for a household of 3) will receive an annual credit, set currently at $236. The credit will be applied over 12 months, so the impact would be about $20 per month. As rate adjustments go into effect, the annual credit will also adjust to match those new rates.
- Customers enrolled in existing Senior Citizen or Hardship water billing assistance programs on June 1, 2019, are automatically enrolled in the BH2O Assists program.
- The Mayor’s Office of Human Services, which administers the Home Energy Program, will also enroll our eligible water customers in the BH2O Assists program.
- NO NEW BUREACRACY will be needed to administer BH2O Assists or BH2O+.
- The costs of the BH2O Assists and BH2O+ programs are already budgeted and will NOT require further rate increases to pay for the discounts and credits.
- DPW supports an independent, third-party review of customers’ water bill disputes.
- BH2O Assists begins July 1, 2019; enrollment will last for 12 months. A reminder to re-enroll will be sent before the enrollment expires.
For more information call the Customer Support and Services Division at 410-396-5398, email [email protected], or visit us at 200 Holliday Street, Room 8. Applications will be taken at Baltimore’s five Community Action Partnership Centers.
*This chart is based on Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2019.
50% Poverty Level
175% Poverty Level
Each additional person