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Water company to offer discount rates to some

By Megan Workman
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 10 percent of West Virginia American Water's customers are eligible for a discount program launched Wednesday, according to the utility.Certain low-income customers will be able to receive a 20 percent discount on their monthly bill, year-round, saving the average customer about $93 a year, West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan said.Some customers will pay less than one penny per gallon, company President Jeff McIntyre said in a news release.The program is open to customers who receive Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI), assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or WV Works. Customers in the SNAP program are eligible if they are 60 or older.The state Public Service Commission approved the water company's petition for the discount program on Nov. 14.Jordan said the water company has been working with the state Department of Health and Human Resources to organize mailing applications to qualified customers.DHHR manages the discounted rate program and will mail out applications this week, Jordan said. Eligible customers should return the completed form to West Virginia American Water.It could take up to 60 days before a customer notices a discount, especially during the initial rush of applications, she said."We are encouraging customers, if they do think they're eligible but haven't received the application right away, to wait until mid-May before they reach out to their local DHHR office," Jordan said. "Calling West Virginia American Water will not give them an application."
Until recently, the discount program was available only to gas and electric customers, she said. Those utilities offer discounts for the five coldest months out of the year.Eligible water customers in the state will now have a cheaper water bill, too, but throughout the entire year.Under the program, the average residential household bill (3, 315 gallons) will be discounted from $39.11 to $31.29 per month and the minimum bill (1,500 gallons) will be discounted from $21.67 to $17.34 per month, according to the utility company."We do listen to our customers' feedback when it comes to rate increases so this is a way for us to help the customer with the greatest need," Jordan said, "to help reduce their water rates while still investing in our system."Customers who pay full water rates will not subsidize this program, Jordan said. The program will be underwritten by the state through a credit against the company's business and occupation tax.In the release, McIntyre said, "This program is a way to recognize that saving even a few dollars a month is meaningful to many of our customers in greatest need, while still recognizing that water rates must reflect the true cost of providing service in a geographically challenging and often sparsely populated area."
In the past, West Virginia American Water has offered utility assistance through the Dollar Energy Fund, which has provided one-time grants to a few hundred eligible customers each year.For information, visit www.westvirginiaamwater.comReach Megan Workman at or 304-348-5113 
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