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Many Seattle residents and businesses are suffering unprecedented economic hardship right now. The coronavirus outbreak is making it much harder for some Seattle utility customers to afford essential services but access to clean water for hand washing and sanitation is critical to stop the spread of COVID-19.  

At the direction of Mayor Durkan on March 10, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) took several actions to make sure all of its customers have clean water at their tap and quick access to payment supports during this challenging time.   

To protect its most vulnerable customers, SPU stopped all water shut-offs due to non-payment and immediately began restoring water service to those who had already been disconnected.  

Photo by Eric Zhang on Unsplash

SPU also greatly expanded the flexibility of its payment plans to respond to customer needs. Normally, SPU requires a 50 percent down payment to establish a payment plan. This requirement has now been suspended for all residential and small business customers. SPU has also doubled the amount of time customers have to get caught up on their bill from 60 days to 120 days. So far, these changes have helped 667 (573 residential, 94 commercial) customers establish payment plans during the COVID-19 emergency period. 

SPU has also expanded access to the Utility Discount Program (UDP). With Seattle Human Services Department and Seattle City Light, SPU created a web-based self-certification, or “fast-track,” form for the UDP. Income-eligible residential customers can now access heavily discounted utilities by simply signing a short web form that attests to their household income, without having to provide income documentation for each of their household members. This expansion will ease the economic burdens of the large number of households that have lost their income too recently to be reflected in their past income documentation. So far, more than 4,000 applications have been submitted via this COVID-19 fast-track web form

Finally, in response to legislation signed into law by Mayor Durkan on March 24, SPU has waived all late fees and interest charges for residential, small-business, and nonprofit customers. 

SPU continues to explore ways to better serve customers during this incredibly difficult time, so they can focus on taking care of themselves and their loved ones. 

-Mami Hara, General Manager, Seattle Public Utilities