Detroit’s water affordability plan will be able to continue to serve Detroiters for an additional year and a half after finding new funding.
When the city launched the Lifeline Plan last August, it only had enough money to operate the program for a year and a half. The program is now funded through the end of 2025, said Bryan Peckinpaugh, spokesperson for the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD).
The Lifeline Plan lowers Detroiters’ water bills to between $18 and $56 per month based on income. To be eligible, Detroiters’ household income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Being enrolled in the plan also protects customers from water shutoffs, which have resumed after a three-year moratorium. DWSD customers can apply for Lifeline online or call 313-386-9727.
Water affordability advocates have raised multiple concerns about the program since it was announced and questioned the city’s ability to fully fund and sustain the program. So far, the program has cost the city $32.4 million, according to its official web page.
Some of the new funding is coming from the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency — the nonprofit enrolling residents into Lifeline. It is receiving $10 million of the $25 million statewide water shutoff prevention fund and will contribute most of that money to Lifeline, but the final contribution amount is not yet confirmed, Peckinpaugh said.
DWSD also received $5 million from the Great Lakes Water Authority in July for Lifeline, according to Peckinpaugh and another $5 million from the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program, a temporary emergency federal program to help low-income households pay their water bills. The program expired on Sept. 30.
DWSD continues to lobby for more state funding to sustain the program for longer. City officials are working with stakeholders to draft new water affordability legislation in Michigan sponsored by state Sen. Stephanie Chang, Peckinpaugh told Outlier.
The legislation aims to help more people across Michigan afford water. It will also allow more cities to have income-based water programs similar to Detroit’s Lifeline Plan.
DWSD Director Gary Brown supported the legislation in a Detroit Free Press opinion piece and said the proposed statewide program would require a new and sustainable revenue source to distribute funds to all municipal water affordability programs, including the Lifeline Plan.
It’s estimated that the legislation would generate more than $60 million per year, said Peckinpaugh.
“If the three legislative bills are passed, we anticipate sustained funding for the Lifeline Plan for the foreseeable future,” he said.