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News Maryland Baltimore City

City increases discounts on water bills for low-income families, seniors

Baltimore's low-income residents and seniors will receive more money off their water bills, under increases to assistance programs Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday.

The mayor said low-income residents who qualify will receive $161 off their annual bills.

Seniors who have a household income of less than $25,000 annually will have their quarterly bills discounted by 39 percent, up from a 35 percent break.

Rawlings-Blake said she wants to help vulnerable residents cope with increases to the city's water and sewer rate — which are set to go up 42 percent over a three-year period to help Baltimore pay to fix its aging infrastructure.

"It is so very important that we keep pace with the infrastructure needs in the city," she said. "We've seen an increase in water main breaks."

Still, Rawlings-Blake said, "While infrastructure is critically important to Baltimore's future, we must also be very mindful of the financial burdens many residents are facing."

The city will provide nearly $27,000 in grants under the Low Income Water Assistance Program for about 190 households. The program is available to households — with incomes less than $41,212 for a family of four — that also have delinquent, turnoff or tax sale notices because of an outstanding balance.

The assistance for low-income residents is up from $145 during the last fiscal year that ended June 30.

Grants for about 2,400 seniors will be provided under the Low Income Senior Citizen Water Discount Program. The credit for seniors will come off their quarterly bill. For the average household, the discount would be $78 off a quarterly bill of $201.

Increases in the water and sewer rates, approved in July 2013, will raise the bill for a typical customer a total of $250 by July 2015.

Kumasi Vines, acting head of Bureau of Water and Wastewater, said residents can call 410-396-5398 to find out more about how to apply for the programs.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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