Visalia residents underwater on bills can breathe easier

Cal Water will provide $1.1 million in debt relief for customers who could not pay their bills during the pandemic

VISAILA – Nearly 14% of Visalia water users fell behind on their utility bills during the pandemic, but many of them will have at least a portion of that debt forgiven.

California Water Service (Cal Water), which provides water service to nearly 45,000 homes and businesses in Visalia, received $20.8 million in relief for customers across its 23 service areas. The funding, which Cal Water advocated to help secure, is being administered through the State Water Resources Control Board and will enable the privately-owned utility to forgive past-due balances incurred by its customers between March 2020 and mid-June 2021.

Customers do not have to apply for the debt forgiveness; Cal Water will simply apply any credits to affected customers’ accounts within 60 days after receiving funding from the state, expected to be in early 2022.

“While life is returning to some sense of normalcy from the coronavirus, we know that many of our customers continue to struggle to make ends meet,” said Martin A. Kropelnicki, president and CEO. “Providing debt forgiveness is one way we can keep our customers who are experiencing financial hardship from having to worry about their water bill.”

Yvonne Kingman, spokesperson for Cal Water, said the Visalia district will provide $1.1 million in assistance to 6,778 customers, all but 305 of which are residential customers. About 40% of the residential customers likely to receive assistance are enrolled in Cal Water’s Customer Assistance Program, which provides income-eligible customers with a reduced monthly water bill. These customers will receive approximately $533,634.04 in assistance.

This measure is the latest step by Cal Water to support customers who have been financially affected by the pandemic. In addition to the debt forgiveness application, customers with remaining balances that pre-date the pandemic or have accrued after June 15, 2021, can take advantage of interest- and penalty-free payment plans or extensions, preventing them from becoming subject to potential disruptions in water service after the moratorium on disconnections for non-payment expires.

Income-eligible customers may also enroll in Cal Water’s Customer Assistance Program, which provides qualifying customers with a discount on their monthly service charge. Additional information may be obtained online at www.calwater.com.

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