Water

Golden Triangle residents struggling to pay bills can apply for water assistance

Residents with financial need in the Golden Triangle may be eligible for a new water and wastewater bill payment assistance program.

The Mississippi Low-Income Home Water Assistance Program is available to residents and families who need help paying their bills to help maintain access to drinking water and wastewater services. LIHWAP is available to residents who need help paying their current bills, have overdue water bills, have service terminated, or have received a notice that their service will end within the next 60 days.

Angela Verdell, general manager of Columbus Light and Water, said the Mississippi Department of Health and Human Services, which is spearheading the project, will work with local agencies to provide funding. Prairie Opportunity will be the point of contact for residents looking to take advantage of this opportunity.

“It works pretty much the same way, if a customer is having a hard time, they can contact us first and we’ll refer them to Prairie Opportunity,” Verdell said. “Prairie Opportunity is the agency chosen to help the (Golden Triangle) residents. They will go there and complete the application process.”

Mississippi residents who qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will also be eligible for LIHWAP. To qualify for these programs, applicants must have household income at or below 60 percent of the state’s median income — meaning that for a family of four, household income must not exceed $27,906 per year.

MDHS received $13 million from the American Rescue Program Act to fund the program, which ends in September 2023. Each eligible person can receive up to $1,500 in utility assistance based on household income and size.

Starkville Utilities general manager Terry Kemp said his aim was to educate people about the program and point them in the right direction.

“This leaves some of our customers who are struggling and need to maintain the services we provide and pay for them,” Kemp said. “If they do it right through the app, it can actually help avoid unnecessary bills due and deadlines.”

Verdell said CLW will not disconnect water systems for residents who have begun applying for LIHWAP. Once the client is approved, CLW will be reimbursed for the service. Customers can keep an eye out for how to start the program in their upcoming monthly bill, she said.

“I think that would really help,” Verdell said. “People are stuck. Water is a necessity. People have to have it. I think it’s a relief to just know there are some places to turn to for help.”

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