New Washtenaw County program offers help with overdue water bills

Washtenaw County residents who are currently facing overdue water utility payments can now apply for financial help through the county’s new Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). Designed to assist Washtenaw County residents with arrearages or water disconnections, LIHWAP can provide eligible residents with up to $650 to pay off bills, and guarantee 90 days of water service. 
 
The county's Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED) is administering LIHWAP, a program of the federal Department of Health and Human Services
 
“Water accessibility is essential," says OCED Program Aide Arieona Klaus. “Especially during a pandemic. We want to ensure water access and support housing retainment by working with water providers throughout Washtenaw County.” 
 
One requirement for LIHWAP is that the resident’s current water provider must be participating in the program. Currently, Saline, Dexter, Superior Township, Sylvan Township, Manchester, and the Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority are participating. Klaus says more are expected to join the list by the end of September.
 
Klaus says LIHWAP isn’t the only way for county residents to receive assistance for utility services. OCED also administers the Barrier Busters program, which provides funds to help county residents meet emergency needs. The state of Michigan also offers low-income residents immediate assistance for emergencies through the State Emergency Relief program.

Klaus feels a personal stake in LIHWAP. 
 
“As someone who lived in Flint through the water crisis, I believe water access is a human right," she says. "It’s a privilege to ensure Washtenaw County residents have this need met.”
 
For more information or to apply, visit https://www.washtenaw.org/3633/LIHWAP, or contact Klaus at (734) 544-6721.
 
Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.