Chicago water bill relief programs help with paying during COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Soaring unemployment along with rising sewer and water rates are causing tough times for some homeowners. The city of Chicago said it's now working to help struggling homeowners lower their water and sewer bills and even remove past-due balances.

The I-Team brought two homeowners to the city's attention to find out if they are eligible.

"I can't keep paying that money, I'm retired," explained Margo Harvey, who is in over her head in water bills at her Stoney Island Park three flat.

She's wondered why her water bill has surged to over $4,000 over the past few years.

She's concerned about repercussions from the city as well.

"Turn off the water, take my building and I've been here since 1973," she said.

Fortunately, the city currently has a moratorium on turning off people's water and has added new initiatives to help out people like her.

"We don't want to be piling on fines and fees on top of services that just make it so overly burdensome," explained City Comptroller Reshma Soni.

Her department launched a website so homeowners can see if they qualify for one of the city's new assistance programs. One is called the Utility Billing Relief Program, or UBR.

"So far we have almost 7,500 participants which is great," she said.

UBR is for single-family and duplex homeowners under a certain income. The city told the I-Team that there are 168,000 homeowners with past due water bills that may qualify.

"You may not have been eligible for the program a month ago but you may be now, so check the requirements," Soni said.

UBR sets aside your past-due bill while you pay only your new monthly bills, for one year.

"After successful completion of the program for one year, your past-due debt gets waived," Soni explained.
If you falter, the city will give you a second chance.

Louis Bacon's Canaryville two-flat is temporarily boarded up as he figures out if he has a water leak. Bacon called the I-Team saying he can't afford his bill of $1,300 dollars.

We asked the comptroller if Bacon or Harvey qualify for UBR. Bacon qualified but Harvey does not because her home is a three-flat. But the city has another plan to help her, the Senior Citizen Sewer Exemption.

"The sewer portion would be exempt, so it's like having 50% off of your bill," advised Soni.

Chicago also offers a variety of payment programs. For more information call 312 744-4426

WATCH: step-by-step video to navigate city website so you can see if you qualify for the UBR program


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