Philadelphia water shutoffs delayed again due to ‘Heat Health Emergency’ declaration

(Ekaterina Belinskaya / Pexels)

(Ekaterina Belinskaya / Pexels)

The Philadelphia Water Dept had been scheduled to resume water shutoffs for delinquent accounts today, following a two-year moratorium due to the pandemic. But shutoffs will be delayed once again because a citywide “Heat Health Emergency” went into effect.

Shutoffs will resume after the emergency declaration is lifted. Predictions call for temperatures to be in the 90s for the next several days. Predictions expect a high of 100 degrees on Sunday.

In 2011, 35 people died from heat-related causes in Philadelphia. The city also dealt with multiple 100-degree days that year.

For the past two years, the Philadelphia Water Department has had a moratorium on residential shutoffs due to the pandemic. The shutoffs were supposed to resume Wednesday. Public Information Officer Brian Rademaekers said not being able to force customers to pay with the threat of shutting off their water had a negative financial impact on the department, and that’s one of the reasons it needed to resume collections.

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The department is working to get more customers connected to aid if they need it. In May, the city introduced new policies to aid customers at risk of missing payments. The level of delinquency that triggers a shutoff notice has been raised from $150 to $1,000. Customers enrolled in the Tiered Assistance Program and the Senior Citizen Discount program will be protected from their services being shut off until Nov. 30, 2022.

People can also apply for the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program. Crisis grants can be provided for drinking water and wastewater service, up to $2,500 each. Crisis situations include those with past-due water bills, or facing the termination of utility service.

Deputy Revenue Commissioner Susan Crosby said $7.3 million in grants have been provided to customers during the pandemic.

“We really do want to get the message out to our customers that they need to sign up and register for that program because it is a first come, first serve,” Crosby said. “And that program is targeted to our low-income customers.”

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Homeowners Assistance Fund can provide utility assistance for up to $8,000 for each customer. Those funds can go towards water, gas, and electricity.

In 2020, the Philadelphia Water Department announced a moratorium on service disconnections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium came a day after Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym introduced a resolution calling for a coronavirus-related suspension of evictions, foreclosures, and utility cutoffs.

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Reasons for water shutoff include missed payments or lack of meter access. To get services restored, TAP customers have to pay $12 each for visitation and restoration fees. All other customers will need to pay $105 for the visitation fee, and between $105-$280 for restoration.

Customers who are behind on their bills or concerned are advised to call (215) 685-6300 or go to water.phila.gov/care for more information.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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