Philly extends moratorium on water shut-offs through April 2021

The Philadelphia skyline is pictured in a file photo.

The Philadelphia skyline is pictured in a file photo. (Mark Henninger for Billy Penn)

The Philadelphia Water Department will pause water shutoffs through April 1, 2021, to help residents suffering economic hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Tuesday.

The department first halted shutoffs in March when area shutdowns left a record number of customers unemployed or without work.

PWD officials say the latest extension overlaps with a long-established annual moratorium on shut-offs, that runs Dec. 1 through March 31, in order to protect vulnerable residents during cold-weather months.

At the start of the pandemic, 15,000 of the department’s more than 480,000 accounts had water restored. No customers have since had their water shut off, according to PWD.

“We’re ensuring people continue to have access to clean water because it is essential to public health,” Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman said in a press release, adding that customers who can’t pay their bill are urged to use the extended period of shut-off protection to get in touch with the department.

“We have staff and programs that can help you avoid a big debt once we get through this crisis and shut-offs resume,” Hayman said. “No one should wait until the last minute.”

The Water Revenue Bureau is also waiving penalties and fees on “delinquent” accounts until further notice. Still, the department warns against letting past due bills pile up if possible, emphasizing that “unpaid bills continue to grow.”

Customers experiencing unexpected medical bills or the loss of a family member may be considered “special hardship,” in addition to those experiencing pandemic-related hardship, the department says.

In addition to potential customer discounts, PWD may be able to remove overdue bills from the collections process through its Tiered Assistance Program.

Customers unable to pay their water bill can apply for help online or call 215-685-6300. Those who don’t qualify for discounts are able to set up lengthy payment plans, though a down payment may be required.

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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