Many water customers may not know that when a water pipe breaks on their property, they probably have to pay for what can be costly repairs. That’s why the City of Columbia said it partnered with a company to offer water line insurance, and now some of that money is helping customers who are struggling to pay their bills.
The ‘Change Up Program’ launched April 1st. Ron King, with Community Development, said so far, 38 customers have received financial aid to pay their utility bill.
To pre-qualify for help, customers must live in a single household and make 50% or less than the average median household numbers from the Housing of Urban Development: that’s $22,450 or less per year for a one-person household and $32,050 or less per year for a four-person household.
King said Columbia water customers have received aid for their bills ranging from $74 to the maximum allowed, $300, totaling nearly $8,300.
The money for the ‘Change Up Program’ is funded from the 7% commission the city receives from every customer who buys an insurance policy from the third-party provider, HomeServe LLC. The current account balance is close to $200,000, up from nearly $180,000 in February.
Columbia customers have received information about the HomeServe LLC insurance in the mail. It covers the cost of repair if a water pipe breaks on personal property, which the city said is the customer’s responsibility. News 19 learned the city is only liable for the repair costs if the pipe breaks between the water meter and city property, like the street.
The Utilities and Engineering Department said all commissions HomeServe LLC pays to the city will continue to fund the program. The city said it will track the number of times people apply; the maximum allowed is once per year and twice every three years.
If you’re struggling to pay your utility bill, you can call Customer Care at 803-545-3400 to find out if you’re prequalified for the ‘Change Up Program.’ Appointments are scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays. To receive financial aid, customers must then go through budget counseling with the Department of Community Development.