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PALMDALE — The more than 1,600 Palmdale Water District customers who still owe delinquent payments on their water bills will have an extra thee months to get caught up before the District may resume shutting off service for non-payment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week signed legislation extending the pandemic-prompted moratorium on shutoffs for non-payment to Dec. 31. It was originally set to expire on Sept. 30.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and following state directives, the District suspended its practice of shutting off water service when customers’ bills go unpaid, no matter the amount owed.

The amount owed by customers has grown since the start of the statewide moratorium in April 2020 to total more than $1 million as of Aug. 31, according to a Finance Committee staff report.

This amount represents 1,669 single family accounts with more than $50 past due by more than 60 days.

“It has some effect on us,” General Manager Dennis LaMoreaux said, noting the delinquencies amount to about 5% of their total water revenues. “We’re fortunate in that the majority of our customers have been paying and keeping up with their bills all the way through this.”

Of those who do owe on their bills, the “vast majority” owe less than $500, although some are in the $1,000s, he said.

“It’s not crippling us at this point,” he said.

Since the beginning of the year, the district’s Customer Care staff has been contacting customers who owe $500 or more to help them, such as setting up payment plans, LaMoreaux said.

“Just let them know that we’re here to try to help them figured out how to get past that,” he said.

The district is preparing to set up special payment arrangements for those who still owe when the moratorium ends. Even when the option to shut off service returns, “That’s not where we’re going to go first,” LaMoreaux said.

The State Water Resources Control Board has received federal funding to help reimburse water systems for revenue lost in unpaid bills through the pandemic, LaMoreaux said.

The Board is still working on the rules and procedures for disseminating those funds, but the district has already submitted the required information, he said.

If things go as planned, the district should see those funds later this fall.

This additional funding would be applied to each of the delinquent accounts to offset a large part of the amount owed, LaMoreaux said.

The district is also providing information about the state’s COVID-19 rent relief program, which provides money to tenants to cover rent and utility payments.

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