July 25, 2019 – Nevada Irrigation District has established a program to help low-income residents pay their monthly water bills, ensuring them access to healthy, clean and affordable water service.
The NID Board of Directors unanimously approved the Low Income Rate Assistance Program during its meeting on Wednesday, July 24. The five-member board directed staff to develop a water-rate subsidy program for low-income residents when NID approved a rate increase for water service that went into effect July 1.
Under the new Low Income Rate Assistance Program, low-income residents’ water bills will be reduced by one-third, from a fixed monthly fee of $26.25 to a revised $17.78. The program will help low-income residential customers living in single-family homes in Nevada, Placer and Yuba counties. The discount only affects the base rate.
“NID cares about the community and is sensitive to the financial impact that the recently approved rate increases may have on our low-income customers,” said Chip Close, Water Operations Manager for NID. “In response, the district is pleased to announce the development of the Low Income Rate Assistance Program to help customers who are having financial difficulties.”
The discount fixed fee for low-income residents is based on the federal poverty level for the region. The federal poverty level for a three-person household – slightly more than the number of NID customers per connection – is $21,330 per year.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Department of Public Health say affordable water rates should be 1 percent to 3 percent of annual income. NID officials chose the lowest figure of 1 percent to establish the fixed fee for the Low Income Rate Assistance Program, which provides the maximum benefit for low-income customers. NID water rates, even with the new rate increase, are below the 1 percent of annual income.
The new program “highlights that our rates are so low,” said NID Board President Scott Miller.
Even with the recently enacted water rate increase, NID’s fixed rates are less than federal and state guidelines for how much consumers should pay for water service.
“It adds another level of argument that the rates we pay are below” those of other water districts, said NID Director Chris Bierwagen.
In order to qualify for the Low Income Rate Assistance Program, customers must show proof at least one person living in the household is enrolled in one or more of the following federal assistance programs:
• Medicaid/Medi-Cal for Families A & B
• Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
• CARE, a discount program for electric and gas utility customers
• Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
Customers who want to learn more can contact an NID customer services representative at 530-273-6185.
Customers must file an application and will be notified within three weeks if they are approved for the program. The discount is retroactive to July 1 for customers who apply before Aug. 31, 2019.
The NID account must be in the applicant’s name and live at the address where the discount is received.
Customers enrolled in the program must remain current on their water service bill. If service is disconnected for non-payment, the account will be removed from the program and not eligible to reapply for 12 months.
If the customer is no longer eligible for the Low Income Rate Assistance Program, they must notify NID within 30 days. If the customer fails to notify NID, they could be back-billed for the discounted rate received and ineligible to reapply for the program for 12 months.
NID will adjust the annual fixed-fee discount every year, as needed with rate increases. The NID board approved a 5.72 percent rate increase that went into effect July 1, with a slightly more than 17 percent rate increase over the next three years.
The Low Income Rate Assistance Program can be suspended, modified or terminated at any time by the NID Board of Directors. If another federal- or state-mandated program is established to help low-income residents, the NID program will end.
The financial impact on the NID’s annual budget is uncertain, Close said. However, if 10 percent of NID’s customers qualify and apply for the program, the impact would be about $183,700 per year.