By Amanda Yeager, firstname.lastname@example.org
1:02 PM EDT, October 11, 2013
Howard County residents struggling to pay water and sewer bills will have a reprieve until the federal government shutdown ends, County Executive Ken Ulman announced Friday.
The county will not disconnect water service until the shutdown is over, Ulman said.
Water and sewer customers normally have 30 days to pay their bill, sent by the county on a quarterly basis. After two additional notices, the county will usually shut off service for residential accounts that owe more than $250.
But Ulman said at least two dozen people have contacted the Department of Finance in the past week, complaining of difficulties paying their water and sewer bill because they haven't been getting a paycheck during the shutdown.
About 12 percent of Howard County's workforce -- 18,000 people -- is employed by the federal government.
"Furloughed employees and contractors, and the businesses that rely on them, are having a hard time right now," Ulman said in a statement. "We don't need to make their situation any harder."
There are about 74,000 water and sewer customers in Howard County, of which about 68,000 are residential.
According to Finance Director Stanley Milesky, the department has enough money to temporarily cover a loss of revenue incurred by late water and sewer bills.