City Releases Results of Water Bill Amnesty Program

Image Credit: Department of Environmental Protection

On June 1, 2023, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection announced the results of the water bill amnesty program following the program’s end on May 31st. The water bill amnesty program allowed New Yorkers with outstanding water bills to pay a portion or whole of the owed principal of the water bill to have the outstanding interest forgiven. 

The program, which ran from January 30 to May 31, helped over 100,000 New Yorkers reduce or eliminate their outstanding water bills. Through the program, over $22 million in interest was forgiven, and the City collected almost $105 million in payments. The agency also granted $5.2 million in billing credits for low-income customers participating in the State’s Low Income Homeowner Water Assistance Program. After the amnesty program, the agency will continue to work with these customers by offering up to $30 million in forgiveness or up to $5,000 of the remaining balance for each property owner.  

At the start of the program, almost 200,000 New Yorkers had outstanding water bills; over 50 percent participated in the amnesty program. Prior to the program, there were $1.2 billion in delinquent payments. The agency saw a large increase in delinquent accounts during the pandemic. 

The money collected through the amnesty program will be used by the agency to invest in system infrastructure and resiliency, which will help keep water rates lower for all customers.

The agency conducted outreach to elected officials, community boards, real estate companies, business improvement districts, and property managers to spread awareness about the program, in addition to a social media, press, and advertising campaign. Eligible customers were also notified through mail, email, calls, and billing inserts. 

The agency plans to continue and increase enforcement for outstanding water bills. Customers who do not pay delinquent bills or at least enter payment plans may face water service shut offs or legal action. During the program, the agency began targeting selected locations of upcoming water shutoffs by placing stickers on the front door and marking on the roadway where excavation would occur to shut off the water. In the past month, over $1.5 million in payments were made as a result of this enforcement initiative, and payment plans were made for an additional $1.5 million in outstanding bills. The agency plans to use this method and legal action for significantly egregious past due bills. 

Mayor Adams stated, ““New York City has the best municipal drinking water supply on the planet and when we asked New Yorkers to do their part to help us maintain that water supply—by paying their unpaid water bills—an incredible number of them delivered. Within just a few short months, our water bill amnesty program cleared the debts of more than 100,000 New Yorkers, saving them $22 million in interest, and leaving more money in working people’s pocket. Additionally, the $105 million we have recouped since the program began will help us maintain our critical water infrastructure and keep costs low for all New Yorkers. We will not hesitate to take stronger steps for those who continue to fail to pay their bills.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


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