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$253 million used to pay COVID-related utility bills

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Some $253 million helped Angelenos pay back utility bills from March 2020 through December 2022, city officials announced June 12.

Mayor Karen Bass, Councilwoman Heather Hutt, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Yana Garcia, Water Resources Control Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel, and officials with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and L.A. Environment and Sanitation celebrated the distribution of federal funding at a news conference June 12.

Officials said the aid was automatically applied to about 204,500 DWP customer accounts.

The California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program was the source of the funds, administered by the state water board using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. The most recent customer relief comes on the heels of other aid programs in 2022 and 2021 designed to help those who had fallen behind on their utility bills during the coronavirus pandemic from March 4, 2020 to June 15, 2021.

Since 2021, the DWP has distributed $700 million in utility bill assistance to 417,729 customer accounts to clear water, power and sewer bills incurred during the pandemic.

“We want our customers to know that LADWP cares, and we are here to help them get caught up on their LADWP bill and better manage their electric and water use,” DWP CEO and Chief Engineer Janisse Quiñones said in a statement.

Chair of the State Water Board E. Joaquin Esquivel said he was proud of the role his agency played to provide the first wave of debt relief.

“All levels of government demonstrated decisive and cooperative action during California’s COVID-19 response to protect people during a crisis and hasten their recovery from it,” Esquivel said in a statement.

In February 2021, the DWP distributed of the first COVID-19 pandemic debt assistance of more than $34 million to 67,000 low-income customers, in a one-time relief action funded through the federal CARES Act, which was disseminated through $500 direct checks.

In January 2022, the utility distributed more than $279 million in bill credits from the California Arrearage Payment Program to assist unpaid electricity debt carried by more than 375,000 income-qualified customers. The DWP dedicated an additional $15 million to complement the state and federal funding to further assist income-qualified customers who continued to need assistance.

From September 2022 through this March, 8,000 DWP and Bureau of Sanitation and Environment customers received $11 million in water and wastewater bill credits through the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program. Through the assistance of Local Service Providers Maravilla Foundation, PACE LA and Long Beach Community Action Partnership, customers received hands-on multilingual application support.

“Sewer services are among the most critical services that we provide for protecting public health and the environment,” Barbara Romero, director and general manager of the city’s sanitation department, said in a statement.

The DWP also offers payment options to customers who continue to have past-due amounts after the most recent CWWAPP automatic bill credits. Customers who are past due may be subject to collection activities, including disconnection of water and/or electric service. 

Customers in need of help to pay their DWP bill are urged to call 800-342-5397 or visit ladwp.com/CARES for more information.

       
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