LIHWAP Utilities' Focus Group - Shared screen with speaker view
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KIm Anderson, Government Relations Manager, Sunrise Water Authority
Ariel Nelson, League of Oregon Cities
Tracy Rainey, Clean Water Services (Sr. Policy Analyst)
Jadea Bacchetti, Utility Billing Manager City of Klamath Falls
Kathy Koch, Portland Water Bureau Customer Service Director
Nicole Stingh (she/her), OHCS
Nicole Stingh, OHCS
Serene Grant, Clackamas County
Rachel King, Amity City Councilor, City of Amity Or
Scott Shearer, Oregon Public Utility Commission
Hello, I'm Corbett White and I'm the Financial Assistance Program Coordinator for the Portland Water Bureau.
Eric Noll (he/him), City of Portland
Eric Noll (he/him), State Government Relations, City of Portland
Sherri Peterson, City of Portland, Bureau of Environmental Services (sewer/stormwater utility)
must answer all to submit?
Please answer as all as best as you can
For later: Can the assistance be used towards a deposit?
Later: Is disconnection the only criteria for use of the crisis assistance?
For example unexplained usage
I think the moratorium question doesn't potentially reflect that many utilities voluntarily ceased disconnection during pandemic.
On the disconnection question: wastewater providers, if not also the drinking water provider, do not disconnect service, as that can cause a public health issue.
In our experience, if you link assistance to a potential action like shut off then the customer will stack their bills until they are in danger of shut off . It doesn't incentivize them to pay until then.
A lot of the utilities the Commission regulates, are very small and run a "tight ship". These means that if a customer has gone more than 45 days past due they are disconnected. Since it is a short period it is general for an amount less than $150 (typically closer to $100). That seems to waste money paying, in essence, future usage. Thoughts?
@KathyKoch: yes. we see experienced the same with energy bills.
Also, can customers qualify more than one time during a year?
Sunrise has established a low income assistance program in conjunction with Clackamas County Social Services. We pay them to administer the program. Any customer who qualifies for LIHEAP would qualify for Sunrise Assistance. The assistance is capped at $200 per 12 month period.
is the assistance ceiling a hard cap or will the program allow exceptions? also share scott's question on if there will be a lifetime or annual cap
The Portland Water Bureau also bills for Sewer and Stormwater charges. Our sewer only customers are liened annually, will the crisis assistance be available to offset sewer only balances and decrease the eligible liened amounts?
Water utilities, by law, cannot utilize liens as a mechanism for collection. The law assumes that water has the ability to use shut offs as a lever to force action on the bills.
FYI, Within the City of Portland, the Water Bureau does bill most of our customers for water and sewer, however, there are the sewer only customers who receive water from Rockwood Water PUD.
What is the expected administrative burden on the utilities?
Can OHCS (via OPUS) provide utilities energy customer information? We'd like to identify income eligible customers not yet participating in utility financial assistance and we'd like to focus financial assistance outreach for those most at risk. Will OHCS or CAAs lead marketing of the LIHWAP program?
Under our program, County social services qualifies the individual household. If they qualify, the county notifies Sunrise and our staff places a credit on their account.
Is the intent under this program really crisis payments or long term support of low income users.
My apologies for having to leave a bit early. I have another meeting I need to attend at 10 am. Thank you all for the work on this!
For eligibility, are the 1 mth, 3 mth, and 1 year look-back for income guidelines established as the options that will move forward with the implementation of this program?
Can the contract between vendor and provider be changed to include the frequency of payments? Like weekly?
Apologies I have to jump to a 10am, thank you for this meeting and info!
@JadeaBacchetti: it depends, but it can be negotiated.
@RachelKing: Yes. So far we will stick with that practice. It has been successful---especially the flexibility needed during COVID and access to income docs.
Wonderful to hear. I just wanted to speak in favor of the importance of having that flexibility given fast changing situations and the necessity of water/sewer services!
What you sent for this meeting was great!
Low Income Assistance Program: I'm the program manager.
Michael Thomas, City Administrator, City of Amity
I'm the contact for the Portland Water Bureau.
I am the contact for Clackamas Water Environment Services
I administer IGAs and MOUs/MOAs related to sewer/stormwater service for City of Portland and will support Corbett White (Portland Water) on this vendor agreement.
Have all CAAs been contacted and informed of LIHWAP already?
That is my hope, an ongoing program for the future
I've met with our CAA contact, Courtney Keating and she has been instrumental in explaining how LIHEAP works and what to expect with LIHWAP. Thanks for all your work!
You have a monumental task ahead to get this established with rules and procedures in place in the time frame provided. The master metered accounts are a trouble spot for sure.
Thanks all! I know I throw a wrench with some of my questions, but hope to make this a good program going forward.
Thanks again for the State level work. Take away is more work to be done more questions to ask and answer!
Vendor Agreements are key in establishing how utilities get financial assistance to renters without utility accounts. Thank you!
We like mouthy : )
key takeaway - you guys are getting it done!