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Every month, millions of low-income Californians struggle to pay their water and utility bills.
A survey on COVID-19‘s financial effect on water systems and customers found that 12% of California households were behind on their water bills, and that statewide, customers owe $1 billion in water debt. The debt was most acute in Southern California, where ZIP Codes in Los Angeles, Colton, Bell Gardens, Norwalk and Cypress had among the highest amounts.
Yet even before the pandemic, many Angelenos struggled to keep up with utilities. In February 2020, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers owed $85.6 million in utility debt, according to a recent report by RePower LA, a coalition of organizations advocating for a more equitable DWP. As of August, DWP customers had $226.9 million in arrears “with no shutoff moratorium and no explicit shutoff protections in place,” the report said. It also found that shut-offs were based on the entire DWP bill, even if customers were enrolled in arrears or an assistance program for some services.
The DWP is the water and electricity utility for the city of Los Angeles. Other cities in L.A. County and beyond have public or private utilities that provide water, electricity, trash and other services. If you don’t know who your utility providers are, look at your water, power or gas bills — or consult the L.A. County Public Works service locator.
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