The California Department of Justice on Wednesday issued a “legal alert” intended to help protect people from water shutoffs as the state continues to struggle with drought, rising prices and the lingering economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. State Attorney General Rob Bonta said he issued the alert partly as a response to an estimated 40% increase in the price of certain types of water transactions so far this year and the fact that roughly 1.6 million Californians have fallen behind on their payments as of January 2021
Maria Herrera had about a quarter left in her last five-gallon water jug.
On that April afternoon, though, spotty water service returned to the 67-year-old woman’s apartment, before the jug emptied. If it hadn’t, that was all she had left to bathe, do housework or drink.
Helix Water District, which provides water for much of East County, will reinstate late fees starting in August and renew water shutoffs on Oct. 1.
The utility’s governing board voted 4-1 on Wednesday to support staff’s decision to bring back late fees and shutoffs for nonpayment. Customers suffering financial hardship had been given a grace period during the pandemic.
The district currently has 546 accounts in arrears for a total of more than $470,000. Helix officials say that 475 of those accounts are residential.
Two years ago the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power shut off electricity at Will Hollman’s home in the San Fernando Valley, forcing the family to rely on a gasoline generator. In late June of this year, the department disconnected the water, too — despite a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs that Gov. Gavin Newsom recently extended through Sept. 30.
Hollman, his 10-year-old son and his 16-year-old stepdaughter endured 11 days of temperatures in the high 90s to low 100s without water or power. For 11 days, they camped out in air-conditioned grocery stores, Starbucks or his truck. They couchsurfed and used friends’ showers. Hollman played it off with the kids as some kind of fun obstacle course.
A national moratorium on water shutoffs could have prevented almost half a million Covid infections and saved at least 9,000 lives, according to new research. Good hygiene is essential to preventing the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. Amid pressure from public health experts and rights groups, hundreds of utilities and states suspended disconnections for overdue bills to ensure households kept running water for hand-washing and sanitation.
In April, the governor issued an executive order that barred water shutoffs for customers who don’t pay their water bills. State leaders are looking for ways to bail out struggling residents and smaller water systems alike, both buckling under $1 billion in water debt statewide.
With the release of a new study showing low-income Californians are struggling to afford drinking water, especially amid economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, announced legislation today to provide financial assistance to customers who can’t pay their water bills and to prevent service disconnections.
“Access to water is a fundamental right of all Californians, regardless of their income level or economic status,” Sen. Dodd said. “Yet as we’ve seen today, many people are at risk of being denied this essential service, in part because of rising water rates but also because the pandemic has left so many people unemployed. My legislation will ensure low-income customers aren’t cut off and get the financial help they need to keep the water turned for their families.”
Two Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform asked the federal government’s top public health agency to suspend water service disconnections nationwide as a means of slowing the spread of Covid-19.
To protect public health, Reps. Harley Rouda of California and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan want the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use its authority under the Public Health Service Act to prohibit water utilities from shutting off service to customers who are behind on their bills.
San Jose Water customers will have uninterrupted service and water shutoffs for nonpayment will be suspended while the Bay Area undergoes shelter-in-place orders to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, the utility company announced Monday.
The company’s customer service office at 110 West Taylor St. will be closed beginning Monday, but residents can get support online at . Non-essential service appointments will be canceled, the company said.
Almost 90 cities and states across the US have suspended water shutoffs for residents unable to afford their bills, as local leaders scramble to tackle the complex public health threats posed by the coronavirus pandemic.