Iowa City looks for donations for utility bills program - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City looks for donations for utility bills program

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One area city says there's a growing number of people who qualify for its utility discount program, and it's in need of donations to expand it.

An estimated 400 people are enrolled in the Iowa City Utility Discount Program, which gives them a discount on water, sewer, storm water, and garbage charges.

Dennis Bockenstedt, the city's finance director, said more than 800 people had their water turned off last year for not paying.  A city council equity study found that more people were eligible for the city's discount program. Bockenstedt said the city is in the process of trying to expand the program to them, but it comes with a cost.

"It costs the city $7,000 a month in lost revenue. If we have a significant number of participants or more people that sign-up for the program, it is going to be an increase to the city. To help make the program sustainable, we need some help covering that cost," he said.

In this month's water bill, the city included an insert asking for donations for an Iowa City Utilities' Payment Assistance Fund. People have an option to make a monthly or one-time donation. 

"It's shown to be effective in helping people in keeping their water turned on, which is really essential for life and quality of life," Bockenstedt said.

Bockenstedt said people in the discount program are less likely to get late notices or have their water turned off, which ultimately can cause people to fall into a larger hole.

"Anything we can do to help prevent people from getting those notices or getting the water shut off is going to be better for us, for labor, and the equipment it takes.  And better for the people because they incur those costs, and they're already struggling," he said.

More information about the discount program can be found here, and donations can be made here.

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