It is no exaggeration to say that the world has been a very different place for all of us over the better part of the last year and half. Covid-19 has not only changed your lives, but many aspects of the way we operate at the District. Social distancing, masking, Zoom meetings, closing our offices, and having a large number of our staff teleworking was not part of our world before Covid-19. We adapted, just like you have, and found a way to keep things moving forward despite the many challenges associated with what became the “new normal”. What hasn’t changed, however, is our commitment to customer service, a term which can best be described as a culture of caring about our customers. In that regard it is personal, and is built into all jobs at the District. When we happen to receive a call or letter from a customer acknowledging that our staff has gone the extra mile to provide good customer service, we realize even more how important this commitment is.
One of the biggest changes is in how we have managed the collection of water and sewer accounts. As you know, Governor Inslee issued a proclamation last spring providing that water and sewer utilities could not terminate service to residential customers with delinquent accounts nor charge late-payment penalties. We went further than that to assist District customers and applied the moratorium on shut-offs to business customers as well. We also deferred lien filings and interest on account balances during the emergency. Subsequent to that, we developed an arrangement to allow customers to enter into payment plans that would allow payment of delinquent balances in installments. I am happy to report that nearly three hundred of you have applied for benefits from our CAP program, which provides $50 towards a customer’s delinquent account.
Much will be changing over the coming months. It appears presently that the moratorium on shutoffs will end at the end of July. This will present challenges on how to address the expanded number and size of delinquent accounts. We will be discussing how we can resume normal collection activities without putting customers in difficult circumstances. We also hope to be able to coordinate the application of federal, state, and local benefits that become available to assist customers with delinquent balances. How much of this funding will be available and how it will be distributed is still a question.
Issue 194 - July/August 2021