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$300,000 owed to Lincoln in past-due water bills, with a 33% increase in past-due accounts in 2021

From washing hands, taking a shower and doing the dishes - water is vital to everyday life....
From washing hands, taking a shower and doing the dishes - water is vital to everyday life. It’s why disconnecting water is the city’s last resort.(Bayley Bischof)
Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 6:41 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - From washing hands, taking a shower and doing the dishes - water is vital to everyday life. It’s why disconnecting water is the city’s last resort.

“Our community needs to take this stuff seriously,” Liz Elliott, director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities said. “It’s why do everything we can to help if people fall behind.”

That’s also why for 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city didn’t turn off water service even if an account was four months behind on payments.

“Our community needs to take this stuff seriously.. it’s why do everything we can to help if people fall behind,” Elliott said.

But now the city is waiting on $300,000 in overdue bills.

Eliott said 1,600 people are at least 120 days late on payments. That’s a 33% increase from the department’s usual 1,200 accounts past due.

To help collect that overdue money, the city is now doing shut-offs. But Eliott said they don’t want to.

“We call people on the phone several times, we’ll send notices in the mail, we’ll go up to their homes,” Elliott said.

She said in the few days they’ve been able to do water shut-offs, they haven’t disconnected anyone.

“Disconnecting is our absolute last resort,” Elliott said. “We’re working with customers so that doesn’t have to happen.”

Lincoln Electric System is in a similar position, but faring better than they were at this time in 2020.

They said as of mid-June, there are 6,500 people behind on their bills, compared to 10,000 in 2020. The total amount owed to LES by accounts that are overdue for more than 90 days is $900,000. This is down from $1.5 million in 2020.

Both LES and the City said help is out there.

“We’ll help you set up a payment plan, no matter how small,” Elliott said.

The city is also offering utility assistance. They’ve helped 2,000 people with rent and utilities, paying out $7.5 million, but they still have more resources.

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Apply for City rent and utility assistance: https://www.lincoln.ne.gov/City/Mayor/Housing-Utility-Assistance

To get ahold of the Lincoln Electric System: https://www.les.com/payment-options/financial-assistance

Help-line for City of Lincoln water department: https://www.lincoln.ne.gov/City/Departments/LTU/Utilities/LWS/Customer-Service

To get ahold of Black Hills Energy: https://www.blackhillsenergy.com/billing-and-payments/assistance-programs/assistance-programs

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