City unveils bill assistance program

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By The Staff

The city of Las Vegas Utilities Department has launched a Water Bill Assistance Program, but customers hit hardest by the rate hike — those living outside city limits— aren’t eligible for the help.

Under the new rate structure approved by the City Council in September, city water customers living outside of city limits are being charged 50 percent more than those living within the municipality.

But the Water Bill Assistance Program is open only to water customers living inside city limits.

City Utilities Director Ken Garcia said the city is open to expanding the assistance program in the future but wanted to limit it to customers inside the municipal boundaries for now to get an idea of the financial impact of the program.

The assistance program is designed to help low income customers with the new water rate increases effective during November and reflected on the December bill.

In order to be eligible for the help, water customers living inside city limits must qualify for the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, and be a full-time resident at the address with water service.

According to a news release from the city announcing the program, the average residential customer uses 4,200 gallons of water a month. Under the old rate, their monthly bill was $20.96. Their bill under the new rates is $23.54, an increase of $2.58 a month or $30.96 per year.

According to the city, customers who qualify for the maximum assistance will receive a $35 annual credit applied on a monthly basis.

City officials have previously said that they are setting aside $200,000 a year from the water rate increase to help water customers at or below the poverty line.

The city’s news release states that customers who are approved for the Water Bill Assistance program will learn the importance of water conservation and will participate in a water conservation audit.

Those interested in applying for the assistance can obtain an application with guidelines from the Utilities Department at 905 12th St. or on the city’s website at www.lasvegasnm.gov

Anyone with questions about the assistance program is asked to contact the city’s Customer Service Division at 454-3832.