MASON, Mich. — Michigan passed the Water Shutoff Restoration Act in December, which barred public water utilities from shutting off service to occupied residences until March 31.
That deadline has passed, but some municipal water systems have announced that they will continue the moratorium on water shutoffs until at least July.
"The city of Mason, in compliance with the governor's executive orders, stopped water shutoffs, and we also chose to stop charging late fees late-spring or early-summer," said Mason Mayor Russ Whipple. "Then the governor's executive order regarding these matters expired, being after it was ruled unconstitutional. So, with the January water bills, we began charging late fees again. But, under our own discretionary authority, through our own water and sewer ordinance, we've decided to allow the no-shutoff process to go until July."
General Manager of the Lansing Board of Water and Light Dick Peffley said their customers "will not have their water services turned off before July."
BWL also is working with its customers on an individual basis when it comes to late fees.
"Hopefully that allows our customers a chance to get caught up, because as you know the numbers are ticking up again," Peffley added.
According to the New York Times, April 2021 has been the worst month for COVID cases in Ingham County.
The city of Jackson Public Information Officer Aaron Dimick said the city does not have any plans to resume water shutoffs, but that residents are still being billed and acquiring late fees.
The city of Charlotte Director of Public Works Amy Gilson said City Council has not yet taken up the issue, and she is not sure when it will.
Mason resumed charging late fees in January because Whipple said, because no doing so last year meant the city's water and sewer fund is out $22,000.
"What we found was that people even said to us that they weren't going to pay their bill because they weren't going to be charged any late fees," he said. "So, we've really found that it wasn't, apparently in Mason anyway, a big issue for people because there was really no change or significant impact or an increase in the number of people having trouble paying their water bills."
Whipple asks anyone who may have trouble paying their water bills to contact the city directly.
"There are a number of resources that are available to people through the state, through (the Michigan State Housing Development Authority). For renters there's a program to help people who are having trouble paying water bills if their rental agreement requires them to do that, and there's a thing called the State Emergency Relief Program that will help seniors and low-income people who own their homes who are having trouble paying their water bills that is available to anyone," Whipple said.
Peffley said customers having trouble paying should contact BWL.
"We'll work with you. We have resources to help you. We did this prior to the pandemic, this isn't new to us, and we're going to continue to do it as long as we're here providing your water services," Peffley said.
Peffley said BWL will re-evaluate at the beginning of June, and if COVID numbers aren't where they feel they need to be, they will extend the moratorium beyond July.
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