Flint, MI—The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Board of Directors recently approved more than $1.5 million in additional program funding for Flint, helping bolster a new income-based water bill assistance plan to better meet residents’ needs.

The funding comes by way of the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP), a two-year program that provides assistance to eligible, low-income households through water bill credits, arrearage assistance, and water conservation assistance such as minor plumbing repairs.

“I think we know that there is, you know, low income households throughout our service area that need assistance in paying their water bills as well as past due balances,” said Madison Merzlyakov, Affordability & Assistance Manager for GLWA. “So we knew there was a need in our service area for a program like this.”

Merzlyakov explained that normally, each year, a half a percent of GLWA’s budgeted revenues is allocated to WRAP at the county level. As Flint is the only Genesee County community GLWA serves, that means the city gets about $24,000 in funding annually to support the program’s work.

“We know that that is not enough funding to serve the city of Flint residents,” Merlyakov said.

Therefore the recently-approved $1.5 million infusion, which comes from uncommitted and unspent funds from other counties the water authority supplies, will now help build on a new program under WRAP’s umbrella: the WRAP Income Based Plan (IBP). 

IBP provides assistance based on residents’ annual household water and sewer bill as a percentage of household income, Merzlyakov said. The goal being that after bill credits are applied, the amount a household is expected to pay toward its water and sewer bill is 3% of its income. 

To give an example, if a Flint household has an annual income of $13,080 and an average annual bill amount of $1,172, under IBP, it’s now eligible for $66 per month or $792 annually in bill credits. 

“Previously under the [WRAP] program, it was just $25 a month or $300 annually in bill credits,” Merzlyakov said. “But now assistance is unique to each household to better meet their need.”

Merzlyakov said that depending on billing cycles and enrollment parameters, a Flint resident in the WRAP program can now expect to receive a minimum of $300 annually to a maximum of $1,200 annually in bill credit assistance—putting a bigger dent in the average Flint residential bill of roughly $110 per month.

“The $25 a month or $300 total annually in bill credits, we were learning that that didn’t meet the need in a lot of communities,” Merzlyakov explained of how the income-based model of support came to be. “Each community we serve is very unique, and so it’s important that our systems programming reflects those unique needs.”

The WRAP Income Based Plan launched in October of this year and is available to all qualified residents who receive water and/or sewer service from GLWA. WRAP qualifications include owning or renting your home and a household income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. 

(Graphic courtesy of Great Lakes Water Authority)

While the program typically runs for two years, eligible seniors and persons with disabilities can obtain bill credit assistance without an expiration date.

Flint households can enroll in WRAP online at www.WayneMetro.org/WRAP, by phone at 810-510-9727 or in-person at Flint City Hall. Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, Flint’s program administrator, is on-site at City Hall Customer Service for walk-ins every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....