Kevin Hergert of the Sequim Public Works Department checks a meter at a local business. In 2018, qualifications for utility discounts are changing for low-income households. (Barbara Hanna/city of Sequim)

Kevin Hergert of the Sequim Public Works Department checks a meter at a local business. In 2018, qualifications for utility discounts are changing for low-income households. (Barbara Hanna/city of Sequim)

Sequim decreases low-income discount requirements for water, sewer utilities

SEQUIM — The city of Sequim is lowering its requirements for low-income households to receive utility discounts.

“We’re making changes to the low-income discount to promote more participation in the program,” said Sue Hagener, Sequim administrative services director.

Sequim City Council members gave city staff the go-ahead Nov. 13 despite the change being a decision that city staff could have made without council approval.

Hagener said they wanted to be transparent with the process.

Participation in the city has ranged from a high in 2014 of 38 discounted accounts to 33 this year, which Hagener said seems low and accounts for about 2 percent of all the city’s accounts (about 2,260 accounts per year).

In the program, applicants received $3,403 in water savings last year and $9,732 in sewer savings.

Under the changes, the city bumps up its guidelines from 125 percent to 150 percent of the federal poverty level per person, i.e., a household of four people at 150 percent must earn $36,900 or less to qualify.

City staff also eliminated the annual $25,000 salary cap per household so that when a household has more than one person it can participate, Hagener said.

Some households have been eliminated previously under the guidelines, she said, such as a home with a grandfather hosting his son who just lost his job, and daughter-in-law and their two children.

City council members agreed to the changes if the discounts remain under 1 percent of the city’s water and sewer revenues.

Hagener said under the changes this year, they could discount nearly $5,000 for water and $10,000 for sewer and still be under 1 percent of revenues.

“We’re still keeping the program costs predictable, so that we’re carefully managing the burden it puts on rate payers,” she said.

If the discounts become more than 1 percent of revenues, Hagener said they’ll reduce the benefits per applicant.

The guidelines will go into place by Jan. 1, with applications due by Jan. 15.

Applications are available through the Sequim Civic Center, Department of Social Health Services, Sequim Community Aid, St. Vincent De Paul, Serenity House of Clallam County, United Way of Clallam County and Shipley Center (Sequim’s senior activity center).

For more information, call 360-683-4139 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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