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Customers who have fallen behind on utility payments during the pandemic have the opportunity to sign up for a repayment plan to avoid termination of services. They are encouraged to get in touch before Dec. 17, to allow time for processing.
At Monday night’s meeting, the Mountlake Terrace City Council unanimously approved a repayment program that allows those customers up to 18 months to catch up. The city also is working on a partnership with the Volunteers of America Western Washington that potentially would use federal stimulus dollars to assist those who qualify. The 18-month timeline allows an additional year of grace beyond what is required by the state Legislature. For about 19 months, the city has followed the state’s temporary rules against shutting off water for nonpayment. Those rules expired at the end of September, and cities around the state have been making plans to resolve utility debts.
In Mountlake Terrace, about 640 accounts are behind on payments, totaling $1 million in unpaid bills. Roughly 1 in 10 accounts are affected, and the average past-due amount is $1,600.
Before the pandemic, public water utilities in Washington generally turned off water service after three or four months without payment. By law, the city is obligated to recoup the costs of water service and cannot “gift” city dollars for that purpose. The repayment program is a carefully considered solution. It is designed to help residents get back in good standing while avoiding water shut-off. If a household does not make these arrangements, the city’s next option is to seek a lien on the property for the unpaid amount.
Customers who enroll in the repayment program and keep up with their plan may become eligible for future financial assistance through the city’s partnership with Volunteers of America. The City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposal at the Dec. 16 work/study session. This assistance would come from the city’s allotted share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
For more information, or to enroll in repayment, please contact the Utility Billing Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-744-6214.