Lightfoot Announces Chicago Utility Billing Relief Program To Help With Water, Sewer Bills

Craig Dellimore
July 07, 2020 - 9:48 am
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has launched a new program designed to bring some relief to people having trouble paying their city water and sewer bills.

City of Chicago

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot has launched a new program designed to bring some relief to people having trouble paying their city water and sewer bills.

Mayor Lightfoot joined City Comptroller Reshma Soni and Harold Rice, CEO of the Community and Economic Development Association (CEDA) of Cook County on Monday to launch the Chicago Utility Billing Relief Program.

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According to the Mayor's Office, the initiative builds on Mayor Lightfoot’s commitment to dismantling the city’s historically regressive fines and fees structure and will help Chicago’s most vulnerable residents come into compliance on city utility bill payments.

The Lightfoot Administration previously got rid of excessive late fees and other penalties for some city debt that the Mayor said puts a heavy burden on those who are already struggling.  Now, the Mayor said, her Utility Billing Relief program will cut city utility bills in half for families that qualify for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program—or LIHEAP.

The program is designed to reduce the cost of water and sewer portions of city utility bills, making them more affordable and preventing residents from having to make difficult choices between paying for utilities and other critical goods and services. Debt relief will be granted for residents that demonstrate an ability to manage the reduced rate bills for one year.  

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“The Chicago Utility Billing Relief Program represents our latest step in bringing long overdue financial support to residents who have struggled with their bills, forcing them to choose between paying for their water and other essentials, and in many cases succumb to debilitating debt,” Lightfoot said. “We can no longer afford to hold back their potential or ours.

"Not only will you get relief on payments moving forward," Lightfoot said, "you will also have the opportunity to have your debt forgiven, if you make all of your payments for one year in the program."

Chicago homeowners of single-family homes and two-flats must be income eligible for LIHEAP to qualify for the Utility Billing Relief program. In addition, the participant must be the property owner, reside at the address, and have their name appear on the bill as the customer. Importantly, the Utility Billing Relief Program will not require documentation of residency in keeping with our Welcoming Cities Ordinance. It provides low-income City of Chicago residents with:

  • A reduced rate on water, sewer, and water-sewer tax;
  • No late payment penalties or debt collection activity;
  • Debt forgiveness after successfully completing one year with no past due balance.

The amount of debt tied to water utility billing has seen a nearly 300 percent increase since 2011 with over $330 million of overall debt today. This trend runs parallel to the recent rise in water rates, which have increased by 166 percent over the same period in order to account for deferred investments on infrastructure that averaged over 80 years old. With much of the debt concentrated in many South and West side communities, the Utility Billing Relief is focused on helping these communities.