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Courtesy of City Council
Councilman Paul Vallone wants the city's Water Board to halt interest and late fees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councilman Paul Vallone introduced a resolution during Tuesday’s Stated Meeting of the City Council calling on the New York City Water Board to not impose penalties or interest on water and sewer bills in an effort to give families needed relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, water customers are billed for both the water they use and the sewage they generate, and the annual rate for late payment charges is 7 percent.

According to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), many residential customers are deferring bill payments because of the economic hardship during the COVID-19 public health emergency, and since March 16, water and sewage bill payments are 12 percent lower than during the same time period in the last fiscal year.

In addition to late charges, overdue water and sewage charges are considered a lien against your property and the city has the authority to sell this lien to a third party, or lienholder, in a process called a lien sale.

Owners of one-family homes currently pay an average $1,000 annual water bill and apartment building owners are billed roughly $700 per tenant, according to a 2017 report. Forgiving all interest and late fees accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic would provide residents with some measure of economic relief since once the pandemic ends, many residents will still not be able to pay these fees.

“While New York State on PAUSE was established to save the lives of many New Yorkers, it has also created financial hardship for many families across the five boroughs,” Vallone said. “Forgiving penalties at a time when New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet is a simple way to provide much-needed financial relief during these challenging times.”

The New York City Water Board was established in 1984 and is the entity authorized to collect and enforce payment and service charges related to the city’s sewage and water systems. Vallone called on the Committee on Environmental Protection for a hearing on this resolution in the near future.

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