Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the city’s water customers will not receive bills at least until early August.
The billing system was disrupted in May by a ransomware attack that also shut down city workers’ emails and online payment systems.
When water bills arrive, they will cover at least May, June and July, and for many customers will include charges from April, too. Typical residential customers will receive bills of $300 or $400.
Most of the other city computer systems used by the public have been restored, as have employee’s emails. Officials have not said exactly what is causing the longer delay in producing water bills.
Officials have acknowledged that paying could be a hardship for some people once bills do go out, and the city will offer plans to give people additional time to pay the full amount. The mayor’s office also said it’s developing a plan to communicate with residents about the larger than usual bills.
“We want to make sure all the bills are accurate and correct,” Young said Wednesday. “We want to make sure we have our customer service team in place that can explain bills to residents who have issues.”
The Democratic mayor told reporters that officials have been urging customers to set money aside in preparation for the big bills.
“I’m hoping they have done that,” Young said.
As problems with the billing system linger, a Democratic candidate for mayor in 2020 released a public online database Wednesday of old water bills that he hopes customers can use to figure out how much they should be setting aside.
Thiru Vignarajah, a former deputy state attorney general, said his campaign had pulled the information from public sources as part of its research into the city’s rising water charges. After the ransomware struck and his team heard from water customers who said the city couldn’t provide them the amounts of bills from past months, Vignarajah realized the data could be put to another use.
“We have essentially restored access to it," he said.
Vignarajah also proposed policies to make water more affordable for low-income residents: A cap on bills for the poorest customers; forgiveness of penalties for customers who work to pay off debts, and a prohibition on shutting off service.
The City Council is working on a bill that would overhaul the city’s water bill discount options. A committee is scheduled to consider amendments next week.