Baltimore residents will not receive water bills again this month, officials said Wednesday.
Sheryl Goldstein, a deputy chief of staff for the Young administration, said restoring the water billing system and the city’s ability to produce and mail the bills is a priority as Baltimore’s tech crews work to fix operations caused by the May 7 ransomware attack.
She said customers can use the last bill they received as an estimate for the current amount due, and send a payment by mail to the water department at 200 N. Holliday St. Any payment should include the customer’s account number. The city’s staff will also accept a payment made in person at the Holliday Street office.
The city will not charge late fees or penalties for payments missed while the system is offline.
Goldstein advised customers who make a payment in the interim to keep a copy of their check or receipt as proof.
Given the problems that have historically plagued the city’s water billing system, Goldstein said once bills can be produced again, the city will audit them for errors before they mail them.
And officials want to support customers when they do receive their next bill by having a plan to provide answers to their questions, set up payment plans and process a large volume of bills. The next mailings are likely to include three months’ worth of charges for customers who do not make a payment while the system is offline.
The ransomware attack has had a wide impact on city operations, from parking tickets and permits to real estate sales and an audit of the $13 million Children and Youth Fund.
City Comptroller Joan Pratt said the ransomware has slowed the audit of the management of the youth fund by Associated Black Charities. Auditors had to visit the nonprofit’s offices to review documents because they didn't have access to their email accounts.
The audit was ordered after it was revealed that the charity asked businesses with city contracts to buy copies of former Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh’s self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books.
Pratt expected the audit would be finished by the end of June.
As the city continues to recover from the attack, Goldstein said officials expect that 95 percent of workers will have access to their computers, electronic documents and emails by the end of the week.
The ransomware attack is expected to cost the city more than $18 million. The hackers demanded $76,000 in bitcoin, a digital currency, to free the city’s computer systems, but Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young refused to pay it.
“We continue to work diligently on the recovery of data and applications,” Young said. “Servers will be brought back online incrementally as they are secured and restored.”
Water customers can call 410-396-5398 if they have questions.
Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.