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City of Bend to resume water shutoffs July 1, launch past-due installment payment plan

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City has more than 2,500 delinquent accounts totaling $1 million due to pandemic

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The City of Bend said Thursday it will resume utility bill collection efforts and water service shut-offs for delinquent utility accounts, starting July 1, while also launching a new installment payment plan for some past-due account-holders.

"As the city is no longer in a pandemic-related state of emergency and because the City must have adequate funds to operate and maintain its infrastructure, utility bill payments will no longer be allowed to be late or unpaid and the city will go back to shutting off water service due to unpaid bills," the announcement said.

However, to help community members in need, the city said it has payment plans and utility assistance programs to help certain qualifying customers.

The city suspended water service shut-offs and collection efforts for past due utility accounts on March 16, 2020, when City Manager Eric King issued an administrative order declaring a state of emergency due to the pandemic.

The emergency order included the suspension of water service shut-offs and collection actions for delinquent utility accounts. Late fees, shut-off fees and reinstatement fees were also waived during the emergency order.

"We are pleased we could keep the water flowing to families and businesses experiencing financial struggles over these past two years," said Dana Wilson, City of Bend utility business manager. “We know some customers continue to struggle financially, so financial assistance programs and payment plans are available to help our customers get back on track."

Beginning in April, customers will receive notices regarding the resumption of water service shut-offs and available assistance programs. Customers with past due balances will be encouraged to contact the Utility Billing office to pay off their past due balance or enroll in payment plans by the June 30 deadline in order to avoid water service shut-off or collections.

City councilors Wednesday night authorized the city manager to develop an installment payment plan for residential and commercial utility customers with past-due balances due to the pandemic, to avoid water shut-offs and added late fees or penalties.

The program will have eligibility criteria, to ensure fair and equitable access, and remain in effect for two years, unless extended by the city manager, Wilson said in the agenda item's issue summary (see below).

Wilson said more than 2,500 customers are in delinquent status, with an outstanding balance of about $1 million as a result of COVID-19.

Councilors asked about the status of problems with utility bills due to a software conversion problem that delayed some bills by days or weeks. Wilson said they should be caught up and current on all bills by the end of April.

Utility assistance is also available for low-income qualifying customers through a partnership with NeighborImpact. Please contact NeighborImpact at 541-548-2380 or email bend@neighborimpact.org to determine eligibility and to apply.

City of Bend customers can call the Utility Billing Department at 541-388-5515 or utilityassistance@bendoregon.gov to review their account or to learn more about payment arrangements and assistance programs.

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