Woman’s water shut off despite state promise
A Florence resident’s water was shut off last week because she was behind on her bill — after the city was notified a state program would make payment on her behalf.
Jesse Buchanan told city clerk Dana Gayle that Department of Children and Families had approved her application for help with her water bill through the Emergency Water Assistance Program and that payment would be made by the state.
Gayle accepted a partial payment but had her service shut off the following day.
For DCF to make payment on the water bill, the city must fill out a form that includes bank account information for direct deposit of funds.
Gayle said the state’s request was why service disconnected.
“I just received last week the application,” Gayle said. “This is something I have to ask my council before I open up the city’s bank accounts to DCF.”
Gayle said the city had worked with Buchanan “for several months, over a year.”
The council won’t meet again until Aug. 1, so Buchanan will have to do without service until after the council meets and gives permission for the city to provide its bank account number and accept the state money.
“I would be opening up our bank account to an entity,” Gayle said. “This would be something new, and I don’t feel I have the authority to open up our city bank accounts to an entity.”
Buchanan, who is disabled after losing a foot several years ago in an accident, is now dependant on friends and acquaintances to bring her water so she has something to drink and a way to flush her toilet.
She’s glad people are willing to help her but angry at the city over shutting her off despite knowing the state would pay the bill.
According to DCF, a household that is disconnected from water and wastewater services, or that has been sent a disconnection notice, may qualify for the program if income limits are met.
The income limit is 150% of the federal poverty level. That would be $1,610 for one person; $2,178 for two people; $2,745 for three people; and $3,313 for four people.
Recipients must be U.S. citizens and their bill must be in the name of an adult household member.
Money for the program came from American Rescue Plan funds. The state received $9 million in federal money for water help. When the money is gone, the program ends.
The state must make payments directly to the water provider.