Health group pledges $2M to help Detroit residents with water bills, flooding cleanup

Darren A. Nichols
The Detroit News

Detroit — City residents in need of help with past due water bills and flooding assistance got a boost with a $2 million contribution Friday from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

The organization announced it will give the United Way of Southeastern Michigan, which manages the Detroit Water Fund, $1.7 million to help with overdue water bills and $300,000 for low-income residents to help clean up debris from last week’s flooding.

“The Michigan Health Endowment Fund is committed to improving the health of Michigan residents, especially for our children and seniors,” Rob Fowler, chairman of the fund, said in a released statement. “We are confident the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, in partnership with the Detroit Water Fund and Project H20 Flood Clean Up, will use this pilot funding to effectively serve these populations by helping low-income Detroit residents and their families regain and maintain access to clean drinking water and sanitary living conditions.”

Friday’s announcement comes just days before a moratorium on water shut-offs is set to expire. Mayor Mike Duggan put a hold on the shut-offs until Monday as he began developing a 10-point plan to improve customer service and provide assistance.

Earlier this week, three corporate sponsors gave a total of $200,000 specifically for the Detroit Water Fund to help residents struggling to pay their water bills. The United Way pledged $100,000, while Ford Motor Co. Fund and the General Motors Foundation each gave $50,000. Officials said during a press conference Monday that additional contributions were expected by the end of this week.

To quality for help with bills, residents must have an outstanding balance between $300 to $1,000; maintain average water usage for their household size; and must be either enrolled in DTE’s low Income Self-Sufficiency Plan or have an income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, the threshold is $33,775.

City water officials have come under scrutiny for shutting off the utility for people who owe more than $150 or are at least two months behind on payments. Officials have said more than $89 million is owed in delinquent bills, including more than $43 million from 80,000 residential accounts.

Since March, the department has shut off water to more than 17,000 Detroiters. Duggan said more than 7,000 residents have made payment arrangements so far.

Residents will have a final chance to make payment arrangements before the moratorium expires during a water fair from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Cobo Center.

“The goal of the fair is to get as many people as possible current on their water bill. Don’t wait until shut-offs resume,” Duggan said in a released statement.

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