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City creating utility bill assistance program for low-income residents

EVERETT — The city’s public works department is building a low-income utilities assistance program for families struggling to pay their utility bills. It could launch in mid-July.
The low-income utilities assistance program would aid low-income families through providing up to $200 worth of annual discounts on utilities bills for each family, or about a “15-20 percent” discount, given they have received a disconnect notice from the city utility department. The program also stipulates that families can apply for aid again each calendar year, and that “resource referrals,” according to a presentation by Public Works Finance Manager Matt Welborn, are available to families seeking greater financial aid.  
The proposal is also supported by a carefully crafted financial plan. The program will be funded with a $200,000 budget, ideal for providing aid to about 500 customers. The budget will ideally be administered by a third party, and, if necessary, may be revised to fit the needs of the program.
The goal of the program planners is to create a “dedicated budget” that will keep the low-income utilities assistance program afloat. 
At this stage, the planners who created the proposal hope to have the pilot program evaluated. The goal is to better the plan and “make changes as needed” to allow it to better serve the community.
The measure was originally proposed at a City Council meeting on Feb. 1 under the overall proposal for increasing water and sewer rates to fund public works projects. At the time, the measure was delayed in favor of examining avenues through which the cost of the projects could be cut. The program was brought back before the City Council on June 28. The planners hope to provide further updates on the low-income utilities assistance program to the City Council in January.
The city already offers utility bill discounts for seniors and disabled people who own their own homes.
More information about the low-income pilot program and other discounts is available at www.everettwa.gov/utilitybilling or by calling 425-257-8999.

 

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