Mayor Danene Sorace on Tuesday encouraged households with past-due water bills to pay them, and to take advantage of assistance programs to do so if they are eligible.
“Don’t wait longer to bring your account up to date,” she said.
As of May, the city was owed about $2.7 million in past-due bills for water service, an amount equal to about 8.5% of annual water revenues.
It has since whittled that down by $450,000, but $2.26 million remains owed, Sorace said.
The delinquencies are a mix of in-city and suburban accounts. The city’s water system supplies both the city proper and nine surrounding municipalities, more than 48,000 properties in all. A little more than 6,200 of those accounts are 30 days or more past due, the city says.
Delinquencies ballooned during the pandemic, when shutdowns led to widespread unemployment. Federally funded assistance has since been made available to affected households to help them recover.
To date, more than 440 Lancaster water customers have taken advantage of pandemic utility assistance, Sorace said.
That includes 312 households who have used the state’s Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program, or LIHWAP, yielding $266,984 in aid. Another 133 households have received $40,800 through the utility component of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, ERAP, administered by the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority.
LIHWAP continues to accept applications. ERAP does not; it has suspended new submissions through at least Sept. 30.
Delinquent households can also contact the city to set up payment plans, the mayor said.
Sorace made her comments shortly after City Council approved a package of water ordinance amendments that includes a rate hike for in-city customers.
For typical residential users, the change means a 13.7% increase, from $84.15 to $95.70 per quarter.
The suburban part of the city’s water system is overseen by the Public Utility Commission. The city has negotiated a parallel rate hike through the PUC that raises rates for typical suburban customers by 15.4%, from $70.52 to $81.40 per quarter.