Leaders from El Paso Water, Project Amistad and the City of El Paso gathered Thursday to announce a new customer assistance program called AguaCares.
The program officially launches January 2 and will focus on helping elderly, low-income customers who struggle to pay their water and wastewater bills.
Many customers are struggling to meet basic needs. Every month, EPWater is forced to disconnect thousands of customers for non-payment. In 2017, more than 15,000 customers were disconnected at least once; more than 5,000 customers were disconnected more than once; and more than 500 were disconnected four or more times.
EPWater partnered with Project Amistad to formalize the AguaCares program, which will help keep services on for customers who qualify.
“We strive to provide reliable, high-quality water services to all El Pasoans,” CEO and President John Balliew said. “The AguaCares program will be a valuable tool we can deploy to help our customers in need.”
The El Paso City Council on Tuesday approved action to contribute seed money in the amount of $50,000 to help launch the program.
“The seed money is part of a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with El Paso Water, which supports some of our most vulnerable members of our population to maintain a basic need,” Mayor Dee Margo said. “This is a wonderful partnership, and I encourage the community to support this much-needed program.”
Under a contract agreement between EPWater and Project Amistad, EPWater will refer customers in need to Project Amistad. The agency will determine qualification and offer services to include money management counseling, conservation support, payment plan arrangements and emergency payment assistance.
“Here at Amistad, we want to help EPWater customers who are underserved and are on the verge of being disconnected from water services,“ said Andrea Ramirez, Project Amistad Chief Operating Officer of Social Services. “We are asking the community to assist us by donating and raising funds to maintain support for AguaCares.”
Currently, the program is in a developmental stage and is in critical need of donations. Officials are asking El Pasoans to remember Project Amistad on El Paso Giving Day – November 15. Donations to Project Amistad will be directed toward the AguaCares program.
“Our region’s only community-wide day of charitable giving is held annually on November 15, and donations as small as $10 are accepted,” said Paso del Norte Foundation Director of Development Anna Aleman. “Since its inception in 2016, El Paso Giving Day has raised more than $300,000 for 165 non-profit organizations in our city.”
Additional fundraisers will be held in the coming months to continue to build up the program.