The city of Detroit was set to send out notices Monday to about 25,000 households with overdue water bills, giving them 10 days to seek assistance from the city or lose water service.
The notices, in the form of fliers hanging from doorknobs, mark the latest chapter in the months-long saga of the Motor City’s bankruptcy. Making sure Detroit’s poorest residents pay for their water has been a priority for city officials, but threats of shutoffs have outraged activists and attracted the attention of United Nations human rights advocates.
About 73,000 residential households were at least two months late on their water payments as of March 3, according to The Detroit Free Press.
Last summer the city created the Detroit Water Fund, a pool of money intended for those indebted to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, according to The Detroit News. The fund is meant for people whose annual income is below 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold, or no more than $17,655 for an individual and $36,375 for a family of four.
"The bottom line is whether you are in that category or not, you need to come in and get on a payment plan," Gary Brown, the city’s chief operating officer, told The Detroit News.
"Then you will be assured that your water will not be cut off. If you ignore billing, if you ignore the door knocker and don't come in and get on a payment plan, then we don't know how to help you,” he said.
The notices apply to people who are at least 60 days late on their bills, The Detroit News reported.
Last month the city expanded assistance, offering to cover up to 50 percent of past-due amounts for households that owe $300 to $2,000 and will pay as much as 25 percent of future bills for up to a year.
Water shutoffs were on hold over the winter to avoid frozen pipes, but the city resumed as soon as the weather improved. The city sent shutoff notices to 800 residents in March, The Detroit Free Press reports.