Los Angeles DWP to end water and power shutoffs for low-income customers who can’t pay
LOS ANGELES — The Department of Water and Power will end shutoffs for people who can’t pay for their water or power for up to a month if they receive more welfare benefits than their income.
The agency, which has faced criticism from the left for spending billions of dollars on aging dams and other costly infrastructure while raising rates, is starting to ease its strict rules on shutoffs. Instead of having to justify a shutoff for people who can’t pay, the water and electric utilities will be allowed to give “reasons” to cut off a customer for not paying if the reasons are based on the utility’s costs.
In Los Angeles, the water department has already allowed people who owe more than $1,000 in water or power bills to be shut off for up to a month. But the city’s water department is still making a distinction between people who are only behind on a payment or who owe more than $1,000 in a month, so they are required to spend an extra day or two behind on their bill before being able to be shut off.
“The water authority will have to provide a reason” for shutoffs in Los Angeles, said Bill Buswell, the water and power division chief.
The switch from requiring reasons to a more liberal policy is part of a larger policy change that has already been in the offing in the water and power department’s response to the federal bailout for the city’s aging power infrastructure.
Los Angeles officials hope that with the change, the agency will spend more of the $2 billion bailout to upgrade other services, like wastewater treatment and storm water runoff, and less on infrastructure.
At the center of the changes is one man, the city’s commissioner and water and power board president, Kathryn LyObjects, who is under criticism for spending more than $1 million on a yacht trip this summer. But a number of her predecessors have been called to task for spending more on personal expenses.
Water and power department spokesman John White has told the Associated Press that LyObjects is no longer the subject of an ethics complaint and that he no longer meets with the department’s general counsel to discuss possible problems with her spending. However, her $1.2 million