Executive director Tara Luckie and board member Rev. Ron Marshall from West Seattle Helpline will be among those at a City Council committee meeting tomorrow to support a proposal aimed at keeping Seattle Public Utilities from shutting off water to homes with children. A news release from the city explains:
Councilmember Jean Godden, chair of the Libraries, Utilities, and Center (LUC) Committee, will discuss legislation tomorrow that will prevent Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) from shutting off water to homes in which children reside.
“This legislation is based on a simple premise: no child should lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation,” said Councilmember Godden.
In 2012, SPU shutoff water to 138 households registered in the low-income Utility Discount Program (UDP). Fifty percent of these low-income households – 68 in total – contained minor children (under 18 years old).
At tomorrow morning’s LUC meeting, nonprofit providers from St. Vincent de Paul, the West Seattle Helpline, the Ballard Food Bank, and the Salvation Army will share their stories of children who endured water shutoffs.
“A teacher told me that one of his students showed up at school unwashed and unclean – the result of his family having their water shutoff,” said Councilmember Godden. “Human service providers have told me of families using buckets filled with water from neighbors’ homes to flush toilets and of parents unable to properly bathe their children or wash their hands after changing diapers.”
Under current law, a household eligible for the low-income UDP is eligible for an emergency assistance credit up to $340. This emergency payment can only be accessed once per year. Although a generous subsidy, one reflective of Seattle’s commitment to protecting and enhancing the health, safety, and general welfare of its people, it was insufficient for 68 low-income families with children.
Councilmember Godden’s proposal modifies SMC 21.76.065(C) to make qualifying households containing a minor eligible for an emergency assistance credit twice every 12 months.
Given Seattle Public Utilities’ bi-monthly billing cycle and time frame for issuing bill delinquency and shut-off notices, this change will allow low-income households with minor children to avoid water shutoffs.
Using 2012 as an example, a second chance for the 68 households with children would amount to an estimated $20,000 cost to SPU. This is a small subsidy in the context of SPU’s almost billion dollar annual budget.
The agenda for the meeting at 9:30 am tomorrow (live on Seattle Channel if you can’t be there) includes this letter from Luckie explaining how Helpline cannot meet all the requests for help that it receives.