Hamilton County Commission Boosts Sewer Rate Discount for Low-Income Seniors — But Some Say Not By Enough

The Hamilton County Commission voted to create a discount program for low-income seniors who own their homes. But one community group says the discount should be higher.

The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati - PHOTO: NICK SWARTSELL
Photo: Nick Swartsell
The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati

Low-income seniors who own their homes will see a discount on their bills from the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati — just not as high as some groups hoped.

The Hamilton County Commission's three members voted to provide a discount for homeowners over 65 making less than $32,800 a year of 25 percent. 

“The 25% discount will make a real impact in the lives of low-income seniors, while minimizing the number of shut offs in Hamilton County,” Commission Vice President Stephanie Summerow Dumas said in a statement. “The 25% discount will also allow the Commissioners flexibility to possibly include more residents in the future.”

That's less than some advocacy groups wanted, however. South Cumminsville-based Communities United For Action says the adjustment doesn't do enough to provide relief for rising sewer rates. They'd like to see a rate discount of 40 percent, a level offered by Cleveland's sewer district and recommended in a 2018 draft report by the Hamilton County Planning and Development Department.

“Communities United For Action and the public provided recommendations for improving the senior Customer Assistance Program at the February 19, 2019 public hearing," CUFA's Wanda Ball said in a statement. "Two months later, they finally passed a program making only one improvement — raising the discount from 20% to 25%. Commissioners vowed to expand the program, and it is our hope that expanded programs won’t be delayed like this one. People need help with sewer bills now.”

About 19,000 people, or 2 percent of MSD's roughly 784,000 customers, are eligible for the new discount. About 14 percent of the sewer district's customers make less than $35,000 a year. 

Commission members say they're working on ways to expand MSD's newly-created Customer Assistance Program, or CAP,  to all low-income customers, but that will take a change in state law. Commission members say they are also looking into ways to assist renters, who aren't covered by the new rate discount.

This story has been corrected to clarify the 25 percent CAP discount is a new program.

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