If you’re having trouble paying your water, heating or cooling bills, you may be able to get your current and past due bills paid for.
Water and sewer bills
Oregon’s Low-Income Household Water Assistance (LIHWA) Program is accepting applications through Sept. 30. This temporary federal program was launched during the pandemic to help low-income households cover the costs of drinking water and sewer bills. Since the program began in early 2022, LIHWA has paid over $8.3 million for more than 15,400 unique Oregon households. This includes over 2,000 water service reconnections or preventions of disconnections.
“It’s often been a matter of sheer desperation,” said Joy Aldrich, LIHWA Program manager at Oregon Housing & Community Services (OHCS). “Water and sewer services are essential elements for life and a direct concern for human health, and this program has been extremely helpful for low-income Oregonians while they struggled with all the other challenges brought on by the pandemic.”
Because the program is ending, it’s critical people get their applications in by Sept. 30. You can apply directly with your county’s local Community Action Agency (CAA).
Do I qualify?
To qualify for LIHWA support, you must be an Oregon resident, and your household income must be at or below 60% State Median Income (SMI). For example, according to the chart below, if five people live in your home, and the annual gross income for the entire household is $69,747 or less, you may qualify for the program. ‘Household unit size’ counts the number of people in the home who have social security numbers.
Renters are also eligible for LIHWA assistance, even if they don’t pay the utility company directly.
How it works
For each qualified household, the local CAA sends a lump sum, one-time payment to the utility company that covers past due and current balances and, in some cases, applies a credit to the account. In many cases, local agencies paid overdue water and sewer bills that had climbed to more than $15,000 (per household) due to job loss and other situations.
Aldrich credits the Community Action Agencies for their tireless and heroic efforts.
“One agency in Southern Oregon even set up a desk in the local water utility office to provide a one-stop-shop for people to apply for assistance when they came in to pay their bills,” Aldrich said.
For general questions or comments about the LIHWA Program, email hcs.WaterAssistance@hcs.oregon.gov or call 503-986-0973. To find out if you’re eligible or to apply, contact the Community Action Agency for your county, listed here. Spanish speakers and translators for other languages are available.
Heating and cooling bills
If you qualify for water bill assistance through LIHWA, there’s a good chance you also qualify for energy bill assistance for heating and cooling through the federally funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Those who heat their homes with wood burning stoves, oil furnaces or other fuel sources may also apply for LIHEAP assistance.
Call 800-453-5511 (option 2) to find out more, or contact your local Community Action Agency to apply.
LIHEAP is an ongoing program and, and there is no deadline to apply.