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    Unpaid water bills could begin leading to shutoff in Santa Ana again
    • May 30, 2024

    Amid the economic woes of the coronavirus pandemic, Santa Ana placed an emergency moratorium on shutting off the water of those who got behind on paying for the utility and now that it is set to resume it will be with more leniency than in the past.

    The moratorium was a financial lifeline many cities threw to struggling residents and most had already resumed shutoffs. Santa Ana officials said many of the federal and state programs the city was participating in to help with costs had limited funding and have either expired or are set to soon.

    The city provides water to more than 45,000 residential and commercial customers, city staffers said in a report to the City Council. “The costs associated with providing such water continually increase and it is the timely payment of water bills that help ensure the city’s water supply is well-maintained and funded for future operation.”

    Previously, the city’s code required 30 days notice before water services could be shut off for households that fell behind on their water bill, but now that time would be doubled to follow a state law adopted in 2018 that requires at least 60 days notice before a household’s water supply can be turned off. More communication about delinquent payments is also required.

    “This is actually going to make it much more friendly for the public, or for the customers, to have more time to come current with their bill before a shutoff,” Kathryn Downs, the city’s executive director of finance and management services, said during a recent City Council discussion on changing the local rules.

    Councilmember Johnathan Hernandez said the new procedures would ensure that residents have added protections.

    State law requires that local municipalities adopt a written policy on the discontinuation of water service, post the water shutoff policy online and refrain from shutting off water service in cases of serious threat to life, health and safety of residents with severe financial hardship.

    It also mandates that the city provide advance notice of looming shutoffs for nonpayment, offer an appeals process and offer the opportunity to arrange for alternate payment schedules or other accommodations.

    Councilmember Jessie Lopez asked that staff advertise the changes on social media channels.

    A final version of the proposed new city ordinance reflecting the state’s requirements is expected to return to the council at its June 4 meeting and if passed is expected to go into effect July 4. Delinquency notices could start going out to residents behind on their water bills as soon as August.

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    ​ Orange County Register