AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two weeks after temperatures began to rise back above freezing in Austin, city leaders took several actions to reduce the financial burden on residents from the historic winter storms.
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Thursday, Austin’s City Council adopted temporary restrictions in Austin Water rates which will run though April 26. Council authorized Austin Water to:
Temporarily use historical average customer water use for determining retail customer bills following the stormExclude water use caused by the effects of the winter storm from retail wastewater averaging calculationsAdministratively adjust water bills for retail customers who had leaking/burst pipes or other high water bills as a result of the February storm.Waive the emergency water service repair cut off/on fee
Austin Water leaders told the council these measures were designed to avoid having customers receive high water bills as a result of burst pipes or other consequences of the severe weather.
The temporary Austin Water rate reductions include:
Tier 2 – Capping the residential fixed fee at $3.55Tiers 3-5 – Reducing the residential volumetric rate to $0.01 per 1,000 gallons
Austin Water leaders clarified for the council Thursday that for the current billing period, Austin Water would use historical averaging to determine customer’s bills. For the following billing period, Austin Water said it intends to read meters, and then apply the adjusted rates before billing customers.
“The end goal is to ensure that our customers don’t receive any high bills associated with unusually high levels of consumption and that we’re able to cap that,” explained Joseph Gonzales, assistant director for financial services for Austin Water. “In the interim, we’d provide estimated bills that would be consistent with the normal expected level of consumption for our individual customers until we are able to implement those rates into our billing system.”
Thursday, the council also passed measures to reduce and waive fees for Austin Energy customers.
In addition to the efforts to mitigate the financial impacts of the storm, the council also authorized Austin Energy and Austin Water to provide $5 million each (for a total of $10 million) for Austin Plus 1 financial assistance program to assist people who need financial relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding levels for the Plus 1 program increased one month into the pandemic, and the city says those dollars have helped nearly 16,000 residents with $11.7 million in assistance for utility bills.
The city has also temporarily suspended late fees beginning Feb. 12 for all City of Austin bills to residential customers. The suspension of late fees will continue through March 31, 2021.
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Customers impacted by COVID-19 can apply for help at http://AustinBillHelp.com or call (512) 494-9400. City of Austin utility customers are encouraged to closely review their utility bills, and can log onto their account at COAUtilities.com,