For customers who are unable to pay their water bills in Chicago, the department offers various forms of financial assistance programs and payment plans. The goal is to try to assist income qualified customers with paying their water bills, as well as any arrears on it, and hopefully avoid a shut off of their water service.
The Chicago water department does not release its criteria for deciding when to shut off water service, but they will try to work with low income and struggling families to try to find a solution to their arrearage. All efforts will be made, as disconnection is an option of last resort.
One of the main resources available in the area is the fact that the water department will allow residents who are struggling and meet income criteria to pay a portion of their current water bill and therefore create a payment plan for the unpaid balance.
If a customer applies for one of these plans and is found to be qualified, the payment plan will require the household to keep their account current by paying any subsequent bills on time. They need to stay current with them as well and can’t fall behind again in the future. Any unpaid late bills from prior to the date of the plan will be assessed a fee of 1.25 percent of the balance after 30 days and an additional 1.25 percent after 60 days. For details, call 312-744-4426.
In addition to direct financial help from the water department, they have information on and can refer people to other organizations across Chicago and Cook County. These other charities and non-profits will offer help to those residents who are unable to pay their water or other utility bills.
Another possible option is the Chicago Emergency Fund. This is a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance and cash grants to low-income families and individuals that live in the city. Money is raised from both private donations and also the occasional federal or state grant process.
The demand for help with water bills or sewage costs is high, and has been increasing over the last few years. The emergency fund can support people of all backgrounds. In all types of requests for assistance that are being made, the non-profit has encountered people who are without jobs longer, or who have lost a job and in the past many of these families and individuals would have normally found a new job really quickly.
However with the economic challenges currently underway in both Illinois and across the nation, most individuals are not finding new employment as quickly. Or when they find a new position, the salary may be lower. The end result is now they need help with paying their water bills over the short term to avoid a shut off, and the emergency fund may be able to help. This short term, temporary assistance will help them from becoming homeless. As indicated, the water bill assistance is all offered over only the short term until people can get back on track.
The Chicago Emergency Fund gets more requests for other types of bills as well, as the program is very extensive in what can be provided. So other costs can be paid using cash grants, and this in addition to water bill assistance. The center also urges individuals to apply for help, and explore all local resources, including charities and non-profits across Chicago. For more information on this non-profit, or other suggestions on payment plans or agencies to call to get help with addressing a possible disconnection of water service, call 312.379.0301
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