This Year's SB 222 Proposes Low-Income Water Bill Assistance Program for California Residents Facing High Cost of Living

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Senior woman shocked with the bill she receives.Teodor Lazarev/Adobe Stock

This year, voters will have the opportunity to vote yes or no on SB 222. The bill would "establish a state Water Rate Assistance Program to provide water affordability assistance for both drinking and wastewater services o low-income ratepayers experiencing economic hardships." This program would be similar to the low-income assistance program already in place for energy utility customers. [i]

Many, such as the vice president of California Water Service, Shannon Dean, believe such a program for water customers is long overdue. The Vice President states that many programs similar to SB 222 have been successfully implemented to "provide vital assistance to the struggling to pay their water bills. [i]

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Overdue bills.Alswart/Adobe Stock

Dean details how Cal Water became one of the pioneer water suppliers to establish a Customer Assistance Program providing enrolled customers a discount when facing financial hardships. In 2021 she reports that 45% of Cal Water's residential customers in the Bakersfield service area were enrolled in the Customer Assistance Program. This is just one example Dean states justifies the need for a low-income assistance program. [i]

Dean also notes that more than 50 percent of Californians are serviced by a provider who does not offer rate assistance to low-income customers. As a result, many are forced to make a trade-off choosing between options that can be "harmful to their health in the long run." [i]

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Water faucet.Paul Tate/Adobe Stock

The vice president urges all voters to vote "Yes" on SB 222 Water Rate Assistance because "everyone should have access to water that is safe, reliable and affordable. SB 222 is a much-needed bill that will give people the financial assistance they need." [i]

According to California Senator Bill Dodd, "A State Resources Control Board survey found water debt in California climbed to about $1 billion. No one should be denied access regardless of their income level or economic status." [ii]

References

[i] Shannon Dean, Community Voices: Establishing a statewide low-income assistance program for water bills makes sense. Yes on SB 222, (Aug. 12, 2022)

[ii] Senator Bill Dodd, District Report - August 2021, (2021)

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Currently pursuing a Juris Doctor at Western State, writer Charnell Gilchrist is writing her way through law school.

Aliso Viejo, CA
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