Laurel, Md. – April 21, 2021 – WSSC Water today announced it is ending its COVID-19 late fee waiver program for residential, commercial and government accounts on June 1, 2021. Late fees will continue to be waived for those enrolled in WSSC Water’s Customer Assistance Program (CAP), and all customers will continue to benefit from an existing policy that allows for the removal of a late fee once every 12 months. WSSC Water will continue to suspend water service shutoffs.
Late fees will resume for bills issued June 1, 2021, and onward. WSSC Water customers have approximately 30 days to pay their bill. Late fees are assessed three days after the bill due date. If a customer is late on a payment, the late fee assessment occurs on the next issued bill.
WSSC Water began waiving late fees on March 12, 2020, to assist customers financially impacted by COVID-19. To date, WSSC Water has waived nearly $7 million in late fees for 175,000 customer accounts.
Continuing the temporary late fee waiver assistance program is no longer financially viable due to the ongoing COVID-19-related loss of revenue (decreased water usage from commercial customers and increased unemployment impacting residential customers’ ability to pay their bills). To date, WSSC Water has not received any state or federal financial assistance to help offset revenue losses due to COVID-19.
“From the outset of this global pandemic, WSSC Water has been committed to making water and sewer bills more affordable by enhancing our financial assistance programs, expanding payment plans to more customers and waiving late fees,” said WSSC Water General Manager and CEO Carla A. Reid. “We were proud to offer our late fee waiver program and so glad it benefitted thousands of customers - saving them millions in late fees. We want to continue this program but doing so is no longer financially viable. We must stem the loss of revenue we are experiencing to ensure we have the necessary funds to invest in and improve our infrastructure, protect public health and maintain compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act standards.”
More than one year into the pandemic, WSSC Water is experiencing a 71 percent increase in the amount of money owed by customers compared to before the pandemic began. As of April 20, 2021, $62 million is past due (approximately 85,000 accounts) compared to $36 million past due (about 73,000 accounts) at the end of February 2020.
Any customer, including commercial and government accounts, can establish a convenient payment plan. There is no minimum payment required. WSSC Water will work with customers to set up a flexible plan that fits any budget and enables them to pay what they can afford. To establish a payment plan, please call our Customer Service Advisors at 301-206-4001, Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Customer Assistance Program
We will continue waiving late fees for those enrolled in CAP, which provides a credit for fixed fees (including Bay Restoration Fund collected on behalf of the state of Maryland) up to $43 per quarter or $172 per year. To enroll, customers must first apply for energy assistance directly through the Maryland Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP). As of April 2, 2021, 14,566 customers are enrolled in CAP. Customers that qualify for OHEP assistance will automatically be enrolled in CAP. Find more at wsscwater.com/cap.
In collaboration with The Salvation Army, the WSSC Water Fund helps residential customers in financial need pay their water/sewer bills. Since the pandemic began, 881 households have received $386,000 in assistance from the Water Fund; 100 percent of all donations go directly to those in need. Customers can make multiple requests for help with water/sewer bills, up to $500 per year. To make a tax-deductible donation or to request assistance, go to wsscwater.com/waterfund.
Here to Help: Contact Us
WSSC Water has engaged in an extensive public outreach campaign, Here to Help, which provides information on enhanced financial assistance resources, payment plans, common billing questions, water-saving tips and how to check for leaks to save money. Please visit wsscwater.com/heretohelp for more information.
More Money for Financial Assistance
Because of the pandemic’s economic impact, WSSC Water is including $3.3 million in its proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget - a $100,000 increase from the current FY 2021 budget - to help more customers struggling to pay their water and sewer bills. To learn more about WSSC Water’s financial assistance programs, visit wsscwater.com/assistance. Eligibility requirements do apply.
COVID-19 Budget Impact
WSSC Water experienced $31.1 million in lost revenue in FY 2020 and is currently projecting a $43.8 million revenue loss in FY 2021. To offset these losses, WSSC Water has identified more than $130 million in one-time targeted budget cuts ($57.4 million in FY 2020; $72.7 million in FY 2021), while ensuring mission-critical functions remain fully funded. This includes fully funding the purchase of personal protection equipment to ensure the continued safety of frontline employees. If past due accounts continue to increase, it is possible that projected FY 2021 revenue losses will grow. WSSC Water is closely monitoring the financial impact of COVID-19 to determine if more budget reductions will be necessary.