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There's a new resource for utility assistance in Pima County

Posted at 9:43 PM, Mar 17, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — "Right now, we have $31 million, and before long we'll have a total of $56 million."

Pima County Supervisor, Dr. Matt Heinz said some of that will go toward helping people with their utility bills.

Providers told KGUN9 there are plenty of customers who are behind on their bills.

At the Tucson Water Department, in any normal year, they're used to operating with up to $3 million in delinquent bills.

"Any given day, there's a number of accounts that make up that $3 million so it could be someone being one day late to up to 45 days late," said TWD Deputy Director, Silvia Amparano.

The utility provider said they've kept services going through the entire pandemic.

"We haven't turned off anyone since this time last year."

Tucson Electric Power told KGUN9 they've found ways to cut costs on their end.

A spokesperson for the electricity provider said decreased use by businesses during the pandemic has made up for increased use by people staying home.

Still, at least for TWD, the back log is going up.

"In January of 2021 is when we saw the highest amount of delinquencies and it reached about $9 million," Amparano said.

Three times their normal operating amount.

"We've been able to manage through the pandemic and seeing the increase of delinquencies with our reserves."

She said the department budgets up to 200 days of service for it's rainy day fund.

So how do costs get covered when people can't pay their bills?

For that we go to Pima County Supervisor, Dr. Heinz.

He said providers costs are covered by what customers pay on their bills, but when they can't pay, COVID relief funds fill the gap.

A new program will allow people to apply for financial assistance and not just people, but the providers themselves.

"Very soon we're going to have a way by which the utilities can actually make applications on behalf of the tenants who are behind," Heinz said.