Richmond-area residents suffering financial hardship during COVID-19 may be eligible for help with outstanding water bills thanks to federal CARES Act funding.
The funding allows for Virginia localities to establish utility relief programs to help residents pay off past-due bills, including water and wastewater services.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced the $60 million COVID-19 Municipal Utility Relief Program late last year. Localities applied through the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
“These are challenging times for Virginia families and businesses, and we remain committed to helping them keep the electricity on and the water running,” Northam said in a November statement.
For most localities, residents who have an unpaid past-due balance between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 30, 2020, can apply for financial assistance. In Hanover, residents with unpaid bills between May 19, 2020, and Nov. 19, 2020, are eligible.
If approved, each household will receive a single, one-time payment.
During January, residents can submit applications to their respective locality. Petersburg’s applications are due Jan. 8; followed by Hanover on Jan. 13; Chesterfield on Jan. 15; Richmond on Jan. 17 and Henrico on Jan. 22.
Petersburg, which came under fire from state officials last spring for cutting off residents’ water during the pandemic because of unpaid bills, received about $382,500 to help. The city now is not cutting off water accounts, city spokeswoman Folakemi Osoba said Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, 3,545 residential accounts in Petersburg are 30, 60 or 90 days past due, Osoba said.
Henrico County, which received $1.8 million in funding estimated last month that approximately 11,000 utility customers could benefit from the relief program.
Chesterfield County sent out 12,000 letters to residents the county anticipates will qualify for a portion of the $1.3 million funds.
Hanover County received about $464,560 in funding for an estimated 3,900 customers who are “potentially eligible,” said Steven P. Herzog, director of the county’s Department of Public Utilities.
“Depending on the response we receive, customers may receive full, partial or no relief. We are required to prioritize accounts that are more than 60 days in arrears before we can include accounts that are only 30 days in arrears,” Herzog said.
Richmond did not respond to requests regarding how much funding the city received or an estimate of the number of qualifying utility customers.