With job layoffs and various financial strains, the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many Jackson residents. The City of Jackson believes these tough times are causing residents to fall behind on water bills. Last month, the Utility Billing Division of Jackson’s Water Department reported more than 1,500 water customers with unpaid bills. City leaders are now taking steps to allocate more federal funds to help residents keep water running in homes.
The City is proposing using an additional $121,020 in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for water shutoff protection. It also calls on allowing the money to be used to assist low-income renters who are behind on water bills due to COVID-19 hardships. The City is currently working with $125,000 in CARES funds for low-income homeowners with past due bills.
The funding proposal can be viewed on the City website. Residents may submit comments on the proposal ahead of a public hearing planned for the Jackson City Council’s Tuesday, Sept. 8 virtual meeting. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Written comments may be emailed to the City Clerk’s Office or the City Hall drop box. The comments will be read aloud during the public hearing. Virtual meetings can be viewed on the City’s website and Facebook page. Following the hearing, the City Council will vote on the amendment and then send it to the federal government for review.
If approved, Jackson would be spending a total of $246,020 on helping residents with unpaid bills. When the pandemic started in March, City administration halted water shutoffs to promote hand washing and overall public health. While there are no plans to resume water shutoffs anytime soon, residents are still being billed for water usage. “In a community where 30 percent of our population was already living in poverty before the pandemic, it’s clear to City staff that more needs to be done to help residents with this essential City service,” said Public Information Officer Aaron Dimick. “We encourage residents to contact us for assistance. Taking action now can prevent mounting bills and service disruption in the future.”
Residents with unpaid water bills are asked to contact the Utility Billing Division by calling 517-788- 4082 or emailing the division.