Tag: customer assistance programs (Page 1 of 2)

A Closer Look at MS4 Audit Trends in North Carolina

Written by: Ryan Vulpis

In the state of North Carolina, many stormwater programs are required by the US EPA to maintain a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. This permit is designed to ensure that jurisdictions protect water quality within its jurisdiction by meeting six minimum control measures (MCM).

1. public education and outreach 2. public involvement and participation 3. illicit discharge detection and elimination 4. construction site stormwater runoff controls 5. post-construction stormwater management 6. pollution prevention and good housekeeping

In 2019, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) began auditing MS4 permit holders according to a 5-year audit schedule, intending to audit 20 percent of the State’s permit holders on an annual basis. NC DEQ plans to audit permittees within the state on a five-year cycle to ensure continued compliance. The three possible outcomes of an audit are a notice of compliance (NOC), notice of deficiency (NOD), or notice of violation (NOV) depending on if an infraction is found and the nature of the infraction(s) found. NODs and NOVs serve to alert the permit holders of infractions and request that the infractions be rectified immediately [1]. The EFC analyzed 29 audits completed by NC DEQ for trends in items of deficiency and non-compliance across stormwater programs. While two of the audited communities received notices of compliance, two communities received notices of deficiency and 25 communities received notices of violation. Continue reading

New Year, New Updates

Updates for Navigating Legal Pathways to Fund Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs

In 2017, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill led a team of experts in summarizing legal barriers and opportunities to establish customer assistance programs using rate revenue, resulting in Navigating Legal Pathways to Fund Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs. Below is a brief summary of noteworthy changes that have taken place since that report was published in July 2017.

As water and wastewater prices continue to increase, due to a variety of factors, more utilities may find the need to establish assistance programs for some of their customers. In light of this and due to the passing and amending of new/old legislation, the EFC periodically updates all current state and territory summaries, and additionally, will be adding summaries for the other U.S. territories not previously included. Continue reading

Four Factors that Allow One Utility to Provide Financial Assistance to People Who Don’t Even Have a Water Account

When setting rates, most water and wastewater utilities are concerned (at least to some extent) about whether their customers can afford the resulting bills. Many utilities are also wondering how they can assist the poorest segments of their customer base with the cost of water/wastewater service. However, a frustrating problem is that a lot of low income people live in multifamily housing, such as apartments, and do not actually have an account with the water utility. Even though they don’t receive a bill directly, these tenants are paying for the water/wastewater service indirectly via their rent. So some utility managers have been grappling with effective ways to provide assistance to these water users. Different theories involving vouchers etc. have been espoused, but one utility seems to have actually solved the problem.

Continue reading

Three States With Laws Allowing Water Utility Customer Assistance Programs

Unlike your favorite TV show, college football, or even your cell phone, water is a truly vital part of life. However, many Americans may still not have affordable access to this necessity. The question of whether or not water is “affordable” in some communities is an ongoing debate. State laws, aging infrastructure, lack of funding, and many other challenges can limit a utility’s ability to address affordability concerns. However, some states have provided a framework for utilities in their state to address the challenges utilities face to provide affordable access to water for all. Customer Assistance programs (CAPs) are utility-sponsored programs that help provide low-income customers with affordable access to water through various discounts or other cost reduction methods. California, West Virginia, and Washington, discussed in detail below, currently have laws in place that enable water utilities to create CAPs.

Continue reading

CAPped: Five Examples of Customer Assistance Programs for Water Utilities

Water pricing is a delicate art, as utilities often must balance competing priorities when setting rates. How can the utility set rates that ensure financial sustainability for the system while also balancing affordability concerns for customers? With any rate increase, the ability of customers with low income (sometimes on fixed income) to pay their bills in full and on time is a crucial consideration. Establishing an equitable rate structure benefits not only these ratepayers, but also the utility, which can now more confidently project revenues. Utilities employ several mechanisms to help customers afford and pay their bills. One mechanism is to develop a Customer Assistance Program that helps individual customers pay part of their water bills when they cannot afford to pay on their own.

Continue reading

« Older posts