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    Long Beach to end pandemic-era utility relief, shutoffs to resume in August

    May 19, 2023 - Kristy Hutchings, Grunion Gazette, Long Beach, Calif.


      May 18—The Long Beach Utilities Department is planning to reinstate utility shutoffs in August for residents who are behind on their payments, according to a recent memo, citing the city's financial inability to continue the coronavirus-era relief policy.

      Long Beach terminated its own local state of emergency relating to COVID-19 in February. Los Angeles County and the state of California followed shortly after, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declaring the nationwide emergency over last week.

      As a result, a bulk of the temporary financial relief programs — along with additional federal and state funding — aimed at supporting people and businesses hit hardest by the pandemic, have come to an end.

      The Long Beach Utilities Department, meanwhile, said in a memo this week that it would be financially "unsustainable" to continue the temporary utility shutoff suspension, which went into effect in 2020.

      "Substantial bill payment assistance has been provided to support families and small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic," the memo said. "However, with the emergency now over, accruals carried by local governments on behalf of private account holders have become unsustainable."

      There is currently a debt of about $6.3 million in unpaid natural gas bills, $2.1 million in unpaid water bills, $3.8 million in unpaid trash and sewer services; and another $283,000 in sewer services in Long Beach, the memo said.

      "The city has carried these utility balances for nearly three years," the memo said. "In total, $12.7 million in overdue water, natural gas, refuse, and sewer utility bills exists in (Long Beach) — with the city, and ultimately other utility customers, bearing the full cost of nonpayment."

      The Utilities Department is planning to resume utility shutoffs on Aug. 15, the Monday, May 15, memo said, in an effort to recoup some of those costs.

      But before doing so, officials are planning to conduct an outreach campaign over the next few months in an effort to give past-due rate payers a chance to catch up, or at least, to prepare. The department will also send out multiple notifications before they shut off anyone's utilities.

      The department still has several payment assistance plans, including the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides eligible low-income households with a one-time direct utility bill payment a year.

      There are also payment plans and discount programs available for low-income residents, seniors and people with disabilities. More information about those is available on the Utility Department's website, or by calling 562-570-5700.


      (c)2023 Grunion Gazette, Long Beach, Calif.

      Visit Grunion Gazette, Long Beach, Calif. at

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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