(01/31/14) - Thousands of people are struggling to pay their water bills in
The Keep the Water Flowing program is going to make it easier for those people.
City leaders say there's a great need for this program. In the past year, hundreds of people in Genesee County have had to ask for help when paying their water bills.
This program is going to target people living on a fixed income who are dealing with first time water shut-off notices. They'll receive help from social workers with the Salvation Army, but they do have to meet a certain Department of Human Services criteria.
If approved, someone will contact them and let them know the amount of money they'll receive to help pay for their bill.
"This is a way for our community to meet a need that we've heard from a lot of our families. With the increasing costs of energy bills, food and gas and now the water bills, people are challenged to get those paid so this is a new fund that's going to help a lot of new families keep the water flowing, keep their homes healthy," said Flint Mayor, Dayne Walling.
This is a joint effort with the city of Flint, Catholic Charities and United Way. United Way has already started raising funds to kick off the program and plans to keep doing so through its campaign.
The program , which started in October of last year, started off with about $40,000 in resources. In the first three months, they have been able to assist 46 households.
"I believe that it's making a difference in the lives of people already because they will come in and get assistance for another bill that they might have like electricity or their rent or gas but then us being able to kind of help them with their water kind of lifts a little bit more of that burden off of themselves," said Tim Parker, of the Salvation Army, Genesee County.
The city of Flint will also include an area on its income tax return where taxpayers can make the choice to have some or all of their tax return donated in order to help this program.
"As part of our new income tax form with the city of Flint, you can make a contribution to the Flint Indigent Water Fund and you can return all or a part of your tax to the water fund so that people in our community can keep the water flowing, keep the utilities on and keep their homes safe and healthy for their families," Walling said.
The program has already been a big help to one Flint mother. Denise Hazlett says without it, she and her three children would be one step away from being homeless.
Hazlett has been trying to find work for several years. Recently, she had to call the city of Flint when she got behind on her water bill.
"It's actually done a lot of help. It's helped us from being packed in to somebody else's house and keeps us in our own place. It's a lot easier than having to bounce from here and there," she said.
Assistance available for Flint residents:
Payment plans - 810-766-7015
Poverty Exemption - 810-766-7255
Department of Human Services - 1-855-275-6424
Customers who have received a first-time shutoff notice should schedule an appointment with the Salvation Army at 810-232-2196.
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