Round-up program discussed to help create assistance fund for those who can’t afford water bills

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A new program is in the works for residents in Frederick City and it is designated to help families who are unable to pay water and sewer bills.

“This is a great opportunity for the city to look at what we can do in a way of a round program,” said Director, Frederick Community Action Agency, Mike Spurrier.

The Board of Aldermen discussed a proposed ordinance to establish a round-up program.

This would allow city residents to voluntarily round-up payments on water bills to help create a bill payer assistance fund.

For example, if a resident’s bill was $99.50 and if they opted in, the resident would pay $100 with the .50 cents going towards the fund.

“I thought it was a kind and clever way to address some real hardships that people face from time-to-time,” said Alderman, Ben MacShane.

In a month, city officials report they shut off water to over 100 homes. To turn the water back on, residents have to pay a $65 fine.

“We are often working with families who are experiencing different economic hardship in life and how having difficulty paying various bills. It might be the rent, the utility bills, and the mortgage,” said Spurrier.

Spurrier said the program is one way to help residents who are in a financial crisis.

The goal is to get people signed up before their water is shut off.

Frederick Community Action Agency would oversee who would benefit from the fund. A inidivudal or family would complete an intake form, and verify the total household income and other criteria. The amount given would be deteremined case-by-case. 

Resident’s who do get approved would only be able to use the assistance once a year. 

Commercial businesses are able to round up their bills to help city residents. They would not be able to seek assistance from the fund.

The Aldermen will vote on the proposed ordinance in May. A program of this type would be the first for Frederick.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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