Los Angeles officials launched a campaign Wednesday to spread the word that utility debt relief is still available to Angelenos struggling to pay their water and power bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Help Is On The Way” program began providing $275 million in automatic credits to unpaid residential and commercial Department of Water and Power customers at the start of the year, and those credits will be completed by the end of the month.
“We want to see businesses and individuals feel like they can clear the plate and not stress out about COVID long after it’s gone because they’re carrying debt with their utility,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday. “So the weight that’s now been lifted off the shoulders of Angelenos, the opportunities to move forward that have now opened up, is what we’re celebrating today.”
Over the course of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles residents and businesses accumulated $827 million in unpaid bills, Garcetti said.
The $275 million in debt relief was automatically applied to people’s accounts, without them having to fill out paperwork or apply for the relief, officials said. Customers who receive relief will also receive an email notification.
“We made it easy, and I hope that’s a lesson for government moving forward. LADWP simply erased the debt from their accounts,” Garcetti said.
Funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and the state allowed the program to eliminate utility debt from 280,000 households and businesses in Los Angeles, officials said Wednesday. An earlier version of the program also used $50 million through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Garcetti said the city is also seeking additional funding from the state for wastewater utility debt.
City Council President Nury Martinez said officials were working to spread the word through the Help Is On The Way campaign because “even now, there are utility debt programs available that many Angelenos simply don’t know are available to them.”
She added that people who have received automatic credits are still eligible for additional relief.
“We need to make sure that every Angeleno knows that they have access to these crucial programs,” Martinez said.
The moratorium on utility shut-offs that began at the start of the pandemic is in effect through the end of the month. Board of Water and Power Commissioners President Cynthia McClain-Hill on Wednesday urged low-income Angelenos to enroll in the DWP’s new “E-Z Save” discount program, which can be found at bit.ly/3sBQmrU.
People can also visit ladwp.com/cares for information about utility relief options. Along with automatic credits, people can obtain financial assistance programs, discounts and extended payment plans, allowing “E-Z Save” customers to pay off their bills over four years.