Dec 09, 2008

Water Shut-Off Notices Double in Detroit Since Last Year

Economic slowdown seen in rising delinquency rates, less donated to fund to help those in need

In Detroit, monthly water shut-off notices have doubled since this time last year, while donations to a program that helps struggling families pay bills are dropping, the Detroit News reported.

"It's tough economic times," said George Ellenwood, a spokesman for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

The city typically has about 8,500 accounts that are more than 90 days overdue, but the number continues to grow as Michigan's economy keeps sliding. In late November, the department listed 10,237 delinquencies, up 20% since July. Last November, 5,030 customers faced shutoffs.

Detroit customers who voluntarily contribute 50 cents per month through their bills to a nonprofit program that provides aid to those who can't pay bills has dropped to about 60,000 from an average of 70,000. The contribution is automatically added to bills unless customers indicate they don't want to pay it.

Detroit Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said the need for more help is obvious. She complained that the water department initially promised to set aside $5 million for assistance and said numerous meetings in the summer to increase aid went nowhere after Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. replaced Anthony Adams as the interim director of the department.

"People are hurting. This is going to get worse," Watson said.