Call for better payment plan continues amid water shutoff crisis

According to the water department, right now  about 32,000 customers are in payment plans. That's about double the number at this time last year. Still, the people are pushing for change and calling for a water affordability plan that's more preventative than reactive.

"Water is a gift; it's not something that anybody's made. It's part of the commons. It belongs to everyone," says Billy Wylie Kellerman from St. Peters Episcopal. 

Water advocates from all over the area gathered in front of the Spirit of Detroit Monday urging city leaders to stop the shutoffs.

"If you continually set people up for failure, we're never going to get the kind of results we want. So that's what we keep trying to point out," says Sylvia Orduno, from the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. 

Members of the Detroit City Council, Detroit's People Water Board and the Sierra Club all attended the effort that happened in the same month the city began handing out notices on the doors of delinquent customers, warning them to set up a payment plan or possible face a cut off.

Right now, between 20 and 25 thousand people are estimated to have overdue accounts.

"When families are trying to pay, when individuals set up payment plans but still fall behind, then that speaks to the unaffordability of rates. So, how do we address that need, and really fix that problem from the source?" says Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda.

The group wants a water affordability plan to be considered. It's a measure that would base water rates on a person's income versus a fixed rate. 

However, critics say assistance programs are already in place. Among them is the Duggan Administrations Detroit Water Fund that was created last summer to help residents stay above water.

"We really need to think of long-term strategies and solutions, and what's going to prevent people being forced into a situation of crisis, versus once someone is in a water shutoff notice then we offer them assistance. It seems a little bit backwards," says Castaneda. 

When the Great Lakes Water Authority is established in July, about 6 million dollars will be available in payment assistance. 

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