Veolia North America Works With East Palo Alto to Bring Debt Relief to Water Ratepayers

May 26, 2022
East Palo Alto takes advantage of California Arrearage Payment Program to eliminate outstanding payments for over 300 people

Veolia North America has partnered with the City of East Palo Alto, CA, to help eliminate outstanding utility payments for over 300 local drinking water customers as part of the California Arrearage Payment Program. The program provides state funding to help reduce customers’ past due utility bill balances, which increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

VNA, which operates and maintains the city’s drinking water treatment system, joined with the city last year to apply for funding through the program on behalf of ratepayers in East Palo Alto. The City has over 18 percent of residents living below the poverty line. 

VNA and the city learned that they were granted over $225,000 to help eliminate outstanding debts for over 300 accounts, more than half of which have been unpaid for a year or longer. 

In all, the city and the VNA team were able to apply $180,357 to eliminate outstanding debts for 309 ratepayer accounts, more than 150 of which were over a year past due. The remaining funding is being returned to the state.

“It’s a tremendously beneficial program for the people in our community who are challenged with meeting the financial burdens of utility costs,” said Karine Rouge, CEO for VNA’s Municipal Water Division. “This type of involvement in our communities reflects our core values and purpose as a provider of essential water services to everyone we serve.”

By successfully participating in the program, VNA and the city were able to maintain revenues at the project that otherwise would have been written off. 

“The City of East Palo Alto is proud to have worked with Veolia North America to get a billing credit applied to our qualifying customer’s utility bills,” said East Palo Alto Director of Public Works Humza Javed. “Our sole intent was to help our eligible residents who fell behind on water bills due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through no fault of their own.”

Additionally, VNA and the city have successfully applied for another round of state funding through a program called Low Income Household Water Assistance Program, or LIHWAP. This program begins where the arrearage program ended, allowing all customers – regardless of whether they are up to date on their bills – to apply and receive funding up to $2,500 to pay down their water debt. 

“We’re glad we can take advantage of these programs and provide some relief for the people we serve,” said Richard Perez, VNA project manager for the East Palo Alto drinking water plant.

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