Money available to help water customers

Customers of the Louisa County Water Authority or who receive water from the towns of Louisa or Mineral can apply for relief if they had trouble paying their bill during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The town of Mineral and Louisa have $12,605 and $14,720 available respectively in federal CARES Act relief to distribute. The assistance is available to help with unpaid bills that accumulated between March and December. Mineral Town Manager Ti-Lea Downing said at least 20 customers have applied for relief so far. About 40 residents or businesses have applied to date in the town of Louisa, according to Town Manager Liz Nelson.

The water authority applied for and received $1,314 in unpaid bill relief to pass on to customers, said General Manager Pam Baughman. In the fall, 32 of the authority’s customers had accumulated $7,169 in debt. But by the time the state made CARES Act funds available in early November, local charities such as churches and the Louisa County Emergency Fund had helped struggling customers to pay most of their bills.

Baughman said there was a delay in sending out applications for water authority customers because she accidentally deleted a Dec. 7 email from the state Department of Housing and Community Development awarding the utility bill relief. She said customers who had unpaid bills should receive information soon about how to apply for a portion of the $1,314.

Initially state officials had set a deadline of late January for water customers to seek relief. But when Congress passed the new coronavirus aid package in December, it extended the date by which localities have to use their assistance to the end of 2021.

Water utilities, including the towns, are barred from disconnecting customers for nonpayment until June 2022, Baughman said. The exception is if a utility’s unpaid bills exceed one percent of annual operating revenue. The authority would have to accumulate $28,000 in late payments to reach that standard.

While charities helped some authority customers pay their bills last fall, the amount of debt is rising again. Baughman said last week it had crept back up to $8,744. Unless a new round of federal assistance is made available, the towns and water authority will not be able to help customers with bills that collect in 2021.

 

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