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Council President Outlines Next Steps for Implementing Water Billing Relief

Council President Outlines Next Steps for Implementing Water Billing Relief 

Draft Regulations for Water for All Affordability Program Expected Early Next Week

BALTIMORE, MD (April 30, 2020) — Council President Brandon M. Scott outlined next steps following Thursday’s hearing on the implementation of the Water Accountability and Equity Act, which is required by law to be fully implemented by July 13, 2020. This legislation, which was signed into law by the Mayor in January, will provide additional relief for water customers and reform the water billing system to be more transparent and reliable.

Department of Public Works Acting Director Matthew Garbark stated today that the administration is not expecting to be able to fully implement the program by the July 13 implementation deadline outlined in the law. 

“We understand that COVID-19 has impacted our work as a city government, and I appreciate the administration’s honesty and efforts in continuing to prioritize the implementation of the Water Accountability and Equity Act,” said Council President Scott. “But it is my full expectation that this legislation is implemented on time. Getting water bill relief to our residents is more important than ever.”

On Thursday morning, the City Council’s Taxation, Finance, and Economic Development Committee, chaired by City Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton, held an informational hearing on the implementation of the Water Accountability & Equity Act. The hearing was called by the Council President to better understand the status of implementation and ensure Baltimore residents get water bill relief now during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Prior to the hearing, President Scott sent a letter to the Department of Public Works outlining the City Council’s questions on the implementation of the Water Accountability and Equity Act. Director Garbark stated during Thursday’s hearing that the City Council would receive a response to the letter outlining the status of implementation from the administration by Monday, May 4. 

“Many of Baltimore’s pre-existing issues, including water billing have been heightened due to this health pandemic,” said Council President Scott. “Once again, DPW was unable to issue water bills for a short period of time due to the work from home order. As we make residents aware that their May water bills will be larger than normal to cover the months of March and April, we must also understand that receiving high water bills is not tenable for most of our residents.”

At Thursday’s hearing, DPW Acting Director Matthew Garbark confirmed the agency missed the April 13 deadline to publish regulations for the Water for All Affordability Program and the Customer Advocate’s Office, both outlined in the Water Accountability and Equity Act, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He committed to producing and publishing those draft rules and regulations by early next week.

“It’s incumbent upon our government that we get the small things right for our residents. That includes water bills that are correct and fair,” continued the Council President. “The City Council looks forward to the responses from the Department of Public Works on Monday, and will ensure that the Water for All Affordability Program is fully implemented so that residents can access this relief now.”

Members of the public can rewatch today’s hearing and access an archive of previous hearings and City Council meetings on CharmTVs YouTube page.

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