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New water assistance fund available for Detroiters

Water running from tap
Creative Commons

Detroiters behind on their water bills have a new place to turn for help.

The Heat and Warmth Fund, also known as THAW, has received a $1 million dollar donation to create a new water assistance fund.

The money is from Miller Buckfire & Co, a banking and consulting company that was hired by the city during the bankruptcy process.

This donation is a “give back” payment that helps Miller Buckfire settle its bills with the city.

“As the bankruptcy ended, there were fee negotiations,” says Saunteel Jenkins, the CEO of THAW, “and all of their fees, and I’m sure we’ve all heard, that the fees were negotiated at the end because they had to be approved by the judge. And in some cases there may have been discrepancies or maybe there weren’t, but part of their negotiations were a 'give back' in some way to the city.”

According to Detroit’s water department, as of this May, some 18,000 households are threatened with water shutoffs.

Jenkins says while most of the available assistance funds offer help only to those who fall below 150% of the federal poverty line, THAW’s fund will be open to people who make up to 200% of poverty.

"We were able to design a program so we could capture families who were falling through the safety net,” says Jenkins. “Not because they made some windfall, but they might make 50 dollars or 100 dollars too much. And it’s heartbreaking when that happens. So we’re able to help more people.”

The help is available June 1st.

Jenkins says applicants must be 45 days past due on your water. THAW will make assistance payments up to $2,500. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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