Detroit wants to expand water help. Here’s how to avoid disconnections.

water meter

Detroit officials want to double the amount of help available for low-income customers facing water shutoffs. Most programs help those who aren't yet disconnected. (Shutterstock)

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Detroit is working to expand assistance programs to residents to help avoid water shutoffs.

In the next few weeks, water officials will petition the City Council and the Great Lakes Water Authority to expand the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP), which provides help to needy residents.

The program, which offers up to $1,000 in bill help, is available to southeast Michigan residents covered by a suburban authority that leases Detroit’s system. 

WRAP is now available to those with incomes of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level or $38,265 for a family of four. Detroit water officials want to double the amount of funding available to Detroiters to $5 million and boost the income threshold to 200 percent, which they say will help another 5,000 city customers.

Last year, some 900 city residents avoided shutoffs with the program, city records show, part of the 3,300 residents overall who are receiving assistance.

​More stories on water shutoffs:

Water officials also are working with the Detroit Health Department, the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions program and others on “pilot studies to see how we can address the systemic poverty which causes recurring issues,” Bryan Peckinpaugh, a spokesman for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, wrote to Bridge Magazine in an email.

The city is also expanding outreach and exploring other solutions to provide relief in a shutoff campaign that has disconnected more than 140,000 customers since 2014, Peckinpaugh said.

Here is information about programs and charities that can help.

The Water Residential Assistance Program: Available to city and suburban residents, the income-based program is designed to prevent shutoffs:

  • Provides a $25 credit toward monthly bills for 12 months
  • Freezes past-due amounts for those who stay current on payment plans and knocks $700 off debts for those who make 12 consecutive payments
  • Provides up to $1,000 worth of conservation and minor plumbing repairs, depending on certain criteria
  • Call 313-386-WRAP 

The Detroit Water and Sewerage 10/30/50 plan: The city’s repayment plan has no income restrictions and lets customers spread payments over  24 months. Customers whose service has been shut off must put down 10 percent deposits for restoration, 30 percent if they are shut off a second time and 50 percent following a third shutoff. Call 313-267-8000.

Water Access Volunteer Effort (WAVE) Fund: Crisis assistance for low-income families that provides up to $500 to enter a repayment plan.  Call 313-267-8000.

Emergency relief: Administered by the state of Michigan, the program provides up to $175 per year in help to low-income households. The state also offers “last resort,” one-time help to continue service for 30 days. Call 211 or 855-275-6424.

Soldiers and Sailors Relief: A Wayne County program that can help with financial assistance for past-due balances and shutoff avoidance for needy war-time veterans, and their spouses, widowers or minor children. Call 313-224-5045.

Charity groups: Nonprofits that deliver bottled water to those without service, assist with reconnection fees and work with city officials on behalf of customers include We the People of Detroit, Hydrate Detroit, the Detroit Water Project and Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength. Other groups that could provide assistance include the Heat & Warmth Fund, United Way for Southeastern Michigan and the Salvation Army.

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Tue, 02/18/2020 - 3:28pm

A great way to avoid the shut off is to pay your bill like the rest of America.

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 2:43pm

Remember all these programs are just tacking on extra money on other tax payers and other utility customers to give it to other nonpaying customers. Just one reason your bills are so high.