New SFPUC building at 525 Gate Avenue, San Francisco, exterior view. (Courtesy photo)

How does 90% off your water bill sound? Here’s who qualifies

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced this week it is launching a pilot program that offers up to 90 percent discounts on water and sewer bills for eligible customers.

The Community First Bill Relief Program, which began Monday, provides some customers with the discount for a six-month period.

Additionally, some of those randomly participants also will receive debt forgiveness for up to $1,000 of back payments owed to the commission, if they are able to make six discounted payments toward their monthly bill, commission officials said.

The program was launched to help customers who continue to struggle financially as the pandemic endures.

Since March 2020, delinquent accounts have grown by 250 percent. In the same time period, the average balance of delinquent single-family accounts has increased by 93 percent, or more than $1,000 of debt per household, officials said.

“This pandemic completely upended the lives of our residents, and we are seeing that in the growing number of customers who are amassing an unsustainable amount of utility debt,” SFPUC Acting General Manager Michael Carlin said in a statement.

“We know that our low-income residents have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, so we need to explore creative and data-backed relief programs to help our customers in these times of extreme need,” he said.

The program is made possible through a partnership between the commission and the city’s Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office’s Financial Justice Project.

“Too many San Francisco families have been hit hard by COVID-19 and are struggling to get back on their feet,” Treasurer Jose Cisneros said. “Targeted debt relief is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

The commission and the Financial Justice Project are anticipating the six-month pilot, which is funded by the San Francisco Foundation, will help customers get back on track with their bills.

For more information, go to sfpuc.org/billrelief. — Bay City News

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