Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Jan. 4 approved a program that will provide nearly half-a-million federal dollars put toward preventing water disconnections for low-income families in North Carolina.
According to Citizen Times, the money comes from the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program, which is a temporary federal emergency relief program started in 2021 as an effort to help those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The goal is to ensure that people who pay for water and wastewater services are not disconnected because of an inability to pay.
Commissioners approved the program Jan. 4 and people can start applying immediately since the process opened Jan. 3. This will last until September 2023 or until the money is used up, reported to Citizen Times.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the state received more than $38 million for new water assistance in December.
Buncombe will receive $452,172 and $69,991 of which can be used for administration, according to a memo presented to commissioners by budget department employee John Hudson, reported Citizen Times.
From Buncombe the money will go to Eblen Charities, which then will provide money directly to local water and wastewater service providers.
To be eligible for the water assistance program, a household must have at least one U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen and:
- Have income equal to or less than 150% of the federal poverty level;
- Have household services that are disconnected, in jeopardy of disconnection or have a current outstanding bill; and
- Be responsible for the water bill.
"Due to the pandemic and its impact on our economy, many households are struggling to maintain their water service," said NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Employment, Inclusion and Economic Stability Tara Myers in a Jan. 3 statement, reported Citizen Times. "LIHWAP will continue to help families in North Carolina keep their water running, a basic human need that’s critical for good sanitation and better health."