Lynchburg group trying to keep the water flowing when shutoffs resume

Coronavirus

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Because of the pandemic, many Lynchburg households are struggling to pay bills, but the hold on shutting off utilities like water is set to expire at the end of August.

Lynchburg Water Resources is looking at about $200,000 in missed payments. The Director says they’ve waived any interest and late fees during the pandemic. However, many in the community are still struggling to meet basic needs at this time.

“Water is very important right now,” said Shawne Farmer, Executive Director of Interfaith Outreach Association. “People need to wash their hands.”

According to Lynchburg Water Resources, approximately 1,200 homes in Lynchburg are at risk of getting their water shut off, about four times the normal rate.

Officials point to lost wages from the pandemic but say payments need to start coming in eventually.

“We know they have competing priorities,” said Tim Mitchell, the Director of the department, “but if we allow the bills to grow significantly, then it’s going to be harder for them to catch up and get current with their bills.”

Interfaith Outreach Association is one of several organizations helping to cover virus-related debt, along with Miriam’s House and Lynchburg Community Action Group.

“We have $40,000 dollars that has been allocated to Interfaith Outreach to assist with utilities for residents of the city of Lynchburg,” said Farmer. “That will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.”

They can cover up to $400 of a person’s debt, and Farmer says they’re trying to expand the support they offer.

“Today, we started a water bill relief fund to assist people who have big water bills that might be more than that.”

Meanwhile, Water Resources is consider raising the shutoff point from a $35 debt to $100.

“You could have people reduce their, what they owe down below $100 to be under the threshold to be cut off,” said Mitchell. “None of that is set in stone right now, but we are looking at ways that we can minimize the impacts of resuming cutoffs on our customers.”

Mitchell says that they may not necessarily begin shutoffs right away in September, that they’ll take it day by day.

Learn more about Interfaith Outreach Association’s water relief bill fund here.

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