The Tigard City Council is now offering utility payment assistance for residents of apartments and other rental housing that are suffering from unemployment or underemployment.
Councilors voted unanimously at their Oct. 27 meeting to expand the Tigard AID program to include renters of both residential and commercial properties, as well as to extend the City’s current waiver of utility payment late fees and water shut-off actions for non-payment. Tigard AID was put in place in April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It offered residents of single-family homes relief from utility payments if a member of the household was affected by unemployment or underemployment. Commercial property owners were also offered utility credit if they suffered economically from pandemic-related causes.
Now the City is expanding the program and extending its timeline through June 30, 2021. The waiver of late fees and stoppage of water shut-offs will run through Apr. 30, 2021.
Utility assistance will apply to any customer of Tigard water, sewer or stormwater, including customers who live outside city limits or those who only purchase one or two of those services.
“Speaking for renters, I think it’s great we were able to spread it other members of our community,” Councilor Heidi Lueb said.
Tigard Finance and Information Services Director Toby LaFrance said the expansion of the program would provide up to $100 per month in utility payment credit to rental households as well as tenants leasing commercial property for their business. Commercial tenants would also be eligible for up to $500 per month in relief if their lease agreement requires specific utility payments.
Money for the program is coming from $750,000 that was set aside by the city for COVID-19 relief last spring. Until now, LaFrance said, that fund has not been used as much as the City expected.
“We feel there is enough unexpended budget to extend this program through June 30 and not exceed that,” LaFrance said. “Or if it does, it won’t be until near the end of the program.”
The expansion of Tigard AID took effective immediately upon Council approval of the resolution covering the matter.
“It takes some back end work to implement the process to make it work,” said Mai Quach, Revenue Manager for the City. “But the effective date, of course, would be on passage of the resolution.”
LaFrance noted the City has tried to publicize the program but with little success.
“We’ve done extensive communications on our programs, bill stuffers, social media, city website, non-profits who work with people,” he said. “We’ve even called people directly. And simply there are some people who aren’t going to pay attention until their water is about to be shut off. For those individuals we want to make sure there is a program in existence that is there to help them.”