HomeLADWP unveils $300 million debt relief program to help 250,000 customers with overdue bills

LADWP unveils $300 million debt relief program to help 250,000 customers with overdue bills

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy is preparing to launch a massive debt relief program this month to help hundreds of thousands of customers financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who are struggling with unpaid bills.

The facility says it plans to use nearly $300 million in economic relief funds to help reduce amounts owed — which have been completely canceled in some cases — by more than 250,000 eligible clients.

Officials are touting the initiative as the largest ever effort to help the city’s debt to utility customers, according to a DWP Press Release.

The city’s plan involves using a mix of state, federal, and local funds to help cash-strapped residents who face rising DWP bills.

The statement said the vast majority of the money being distributed – about $285 million – is expected to come from the state, which has earmarked pandemic relief funds specifically for municipal facilities.

The funds will be used to help pay overdue water and electricity bills between March 4, 2020 and June 15, 2021, and are primarily intended for customers who have experienced wage cuts and job losses due to the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 virus has dealt a devastating blow to our residents, impacting their livelihoods and undermining their economic security, and it is our responsibility to help them get through this crisis,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “Anyone who is struggling to make ends meet should have no further hardship, and this new program will provide a basic subsidy to help hard-working Angelenos get back on their feet.”

With direction from Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council, DWP will spend an additional $15 million to help customers who are delinquent in payments before or after the state’s eligibility period.

According to the statement, up to 80,000 customers in the low-income discount program will receive an additional amount of up to $500 in debt relief.

Pandemic relief funds will be made available in the state in the coming weeks and customers will not need to apply for debt relief assistance. Instead, a credit will appear on utility bills for customers with eligible balances that are overdue, officials said.

Those who still owe money to the DWP after applying credits will also be eligible for more financial aid, including extended payment plans.

To that end, this month DWP will begin offering expanded utility bill payment options to those who need long-term assistance, giving them more time to pay overdue bills without incurring any interest. The facility’s Low Income Lifeline Discount Program will extend the reimbursement period for participants from two to four years.

The tool added that other eligible customers will have three years to pay off overdue balances, while they previously had only one.

Customers who can’t afford their bills will also have more time to pay them before shutting down their services, as the Board of Water and Energy Commissioners voted last week to extend the moratorium on utility shutdowns until March 31, 2022.

DWP customers who may qualify for the facility’s low-income discount program are required to visit www.ladwp.com/financialassistance.