Water affordability programs help tackle rising utility costs

Water utility bills are the highest they've been in decades [shutterstock]
Water utility bills are the highest they've been in decades [shutterstock]
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In the early days of the pandemic, the city of Cleveland announced it would help residents during the pandemic, by temporarily stopping shutoffs of power and water in homes and apartments. That applied even if people were behind on their bills.

That shutoff moratorium was lifted in December of 2020, even as the pandemic continued.

The number of Cleveland residents who are behind on the water bill is shocking, almost 10% of all Cleveland Water customers, about 40,000 customers; were more than 6 months behind in November of last year.

All of this comes as water bills themselves have increased steadily over the past several years. Since 2012, water bills have surged 31% -- a rate far outpacing inflation.

It should be no surprise that those price increases will hit lower income households the hardest and analysts say the trend will only get worse in the coming years.

One report from Texas A&M University found that lower income household spend as much as 10% of their disposable income each month, to pay for basic monthly water and sewer services.

But there are some possible solutions to the problem. Programs are being structured in metropolitan areas across the country, in an attempt to help lower income residents tackle the rising costs as well as keep from falling behind on bills.

The city of Cleveland has programs in place to assist those that are behind, but they're utilized with varying degrees of success.

On the program today, we look at rising utility costs, and how some entities are trying to get help to city residents.

Stay with us as later in the show, we stay with that water theme and take a trip out to Lake Erie and learn about 'smart buoys' being deployed in the lake this week.

The buoys will be collecting numerous data points, and relaying that data to area organizations in order to inform us of the lake's health and safety; keeping an eye on temperature, wave height, and algea levels.

You can even '"Text A Buoy" at 734-418-7299 to get the latest Lake Erie information. 

Guests: 

- Conor Morris, Reporter, Northeast Ohio Solutions Journalism Project; Reporter, Report For America

- Crystal Davis, Vice President of Policy and Strategic Engagement, Alliance for the Great Lakes

- Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, Chief Executive Officer, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

- Bryan Stubbs, Executive Director and President, The Cleveland Water Alliance

- Alex Margevicius, Commissioner, Cleveland Water Department

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