by Ryan Felton
More than 1,000 people demonstrated in the streets of downtown Detroit against the city's ongoing water shutoffs on July 18, 2014. The protest was organized by the National Nurses United. (Ryan Felton/Metro Times)
In light of worldwide attention on its efforts to cut water service for thousands of Detroit residents, the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department said today it would host a Water Affordability Fair on August 2nd to explain options available to those facing financial hardship.
DWSD officials said in a news release today the fair will be take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the department's Eastside Customer Service Center at 13303 E. McNichols. The move came on the heels of growing pressure from opponents of the initiative and criticism from the U.S. bankruptcy judge overseeing Detroit's Chapter 9 case.
“Every customer that has come to DWSD with a legitimate financial hardship has not had their water service terminated," said Darryl Latimer, DWSD deputy director, in a statement. "In cases where the water has been shut off, it’s been restored. We keep hearing at DWSD that there are poor people who are not receiving the assistance that they need, so we want to help them and we want to make it as easy as possible for the to receive that help. That’s why we created the Water Affordability Fair – ease of access and ease of assistance. We are here to help.”
DWSD reps will be on-site to talk about setting up payment plans and other options available to residents. A number of other assistance programs are available, including the Detroit Residential Water Assistance Program, Water Access Volunteer Effort (WAVE), and Wayne Metropolitan Community Action. Those programs provide as much as $2,000 in financial aid.
The department's decision to stop shutoffs for two weeks was seen as a victory by critics of the initiative. A statement from the Detroit Water Brigade coalition commended DWSD's decision to halt "the disastrous and punitive program that has left thousands of low-income families without reliable access to water."
Still, the Detroit Water Brigade called on DWSD to indefinitely suspend residential shutoffs, restore service to those who lost service, "and immediately begin work to implement an income-based Water Affordability Plan."