SAGINAW, MI – Three days after Saginaw City authorities resumed water utility shutdowns following a 15-month pandemic-related moratorium, 64 homes had no access to water . Over the next few months, more than 700 homes could also dry up.

Lori Brown, director of finance and municipal assessor for Saginaw, said the community will shut down water services at the rate of 150 homes per week, which will impact residents who do not pay their water bills for longer. 60 days. The closures will first have an impact on the most indebted customers.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Saginaw shut off the water to 100 residents who owed $ 900 to $ 3,000, she said. On Thursday, June 17, the city resumed services in 36 of these homes after affected residents paid their bills, found financial assistance or set up a payment method satisfactory to municipal authorities.

“We’ve had people come in to pay their balance in full,” Brown said. “Some come here, really upset. Some people dug a hole.

State lawmakers banned water service cuts when the pandemic hit in March 2020. That order expired 12 months later, but Saginaw extended its moratorium until this week. About 750 homes landed on the overdue bill list, Brown said. More residences could join this lineup as additional residents fall behind on payments.

“I hope we can encourage more people to ask for help or make payment arrangements, so we don’t have to shut them down,” she said. “We are more lenient in our closure policy at the moment. “

In addition to sending bill payment notices in the mail, town hall staff six months ago began making “courtesy calls” to residents who were very late in paying their water bills. she declared.

“Some accounts received two or three courtesy calls,” she said.

Brown said his staff had prepared for inbound calls and city hall visits which intensified when the closures began on Tuesday.

She encouraged affected residents to contact City Hall at (989) 759-1450 or to visit the facility at 1315 S. Washington in Saginaw.

“We need them to communicate with us, hopefully before they are cut,” Brown said.

“When they call us or come to see us, we ask them if they have applied for financial assistance. Otherwise, we talk to them about the help available to them.

As appropriate, these tips include seeking help from programs established by agencies such as the state Department of Health and Human Services, the Saginaw County Community Action Center, and the County of United Way. Saginaw, she said. Brown said staff also encourage residents who are behind in their payments to contact the Northeast Michigan branch of 2-1-1, a nonprofit that connects people seeking help with debt problems such as utility bills.

Some city officials said it was possible that some affected residents mistook the state-ordered shutdown moratorium for a debt cancellation program.

“I think people got it wrong,” Saginaw Mayor Brenda Moore said in May. “When it says you can’t shut off the water (or) you can’t shut off the consumers (the energy), you can’t kick people out. See, he doesn’t say “stop paying”. It was to make it easier for people. Maybe you couldn’t afford to pay all the rent, but pay it. So, I think some people may have fallen so behind. “

Residents behind in paying their water bills have received permanent relief during the pandemic.

Senate Bill 690 provided $ 590,536 in aid for 2,286 Saginaw accounts in December, bringing the overdue balance to about $ 1 million, where it remains today. Additionally, the city forgave the late payment penalty fee from March 2020 to December 2020.

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