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City of Akron pausing all water disconnections through Christmas and New Year's

Posted at 11:25 AM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 11:25:53-05

AKRON, Ohio — The City of Akron has decided to pause all water turnoffs through the Christmas holiday and New Year’s, Mayor Dan Horrigan announced.

The mayor said in 2021, the city will increase the amount of funding available to each household through the Akron Cares Program to $500.

In a news release, the city said while some have suggested a moratorium on water disconnections, data cited by the city showed this approach results in increased delinquency rates and higher household utility debt.

“We have worked tirelessly to help our residents through this challenging time while continuing to provide clean water to more than 80,000 households 24/7/365,” said Mayor Dan Horrigan in a news release. “We continually refine our programs to find ways to help more residents during this pandemic, but what I cannot support is any policy that would put Akron households further behind. A moratorium is a band-aid that can allow balances to grow without any long-term solution. What we are deploying instead is a surgical approach—one that helps address the underlying problem, targets significant assistance to those who need it most, won’t burden other ratepayers, and supports the City’s overall financial health. And we remain open to other innovative strategies that will offer Akron families real and lasting help.”

According to the city, less than 70 total accounts, which is about .08% of Akron customers, are impacted by water disconnection due to non-payment.

“A water shutoff moratorium will likely have the opposite effect of what’s intended, by enabling customers to get even further behind on their bills with no permanent relief,” Shelley Goodrich, Deputy Finance Director said in a news release. “During a moratorium, we find that even some customers who can afford to pay will stop paying their bill, leading to cascading problems. An indefinite moratorium could affect the City’s bond rating and our ability to pay not only for the federally-mandated CSO project but our financing for other essential upgrades to our system. A moratorium on utility shutoffs will inevitably disrupt water and sewer rates moving forward, to the detriment of all customers, including the most at-risk Akronites. Under a moratorium, paying customers could be unfairly burdened to pay more to make up for the unpaid balances of others. However, like many other cities, Akron is pivoting from a moratorium approach to an assistance-based approach, allowing residents to maintain their service if they notify the utility of their challenges to pay and work with us to accept available funds.”

This year, the city provided over $401,100 in direct water/sewer bill relief to more than 2,300 Akron households through the cares program, which was revamped to address hardships related to COVID-19.

For more information on the Akron Cares program, including how to apply for funding, click here.

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