Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz are taking additional steps to help City of Portland sewer, stormwater, and water small business customers with their utility bills during the ongoing public health and economic crisis with the Small Business Program for Utility Relief (SPUR). The Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services have pledged $1 million in financial support for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Credits for City of Portland utility bills are expected to assist between approximately 200 and 300 small businesses and will range between $1,000 and $10,000. The City of Portland utility bureaus are partnering with Prosper Portland, the city’s economic development agency, to develop criteria for providing relief to impacted businesses.
“Today’s actions build upon our continued efforts to help each other weather the COVID storm,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Portland is a small business town. Our small businesses are employers, neighbors, and mainstays of our neighborhoods. By helping small businesses, especially Black, indigenous, people of color, and women-owned businesses, we are contributing to the City’s resilience and recovery.”
More information is available at the Water Bureau’s website, portlandoregon.gov/water/smallbiz. Business owners can sign up now to get an announcement when the application opens. Applications will be open for two weeks beginning July 8, and will be evaluated using a racial equity and vulnerability lens. Applications will not be evaluated on a first come-first served basis.
“Small businesses give Portland its unique character and add to its vibrant economic fabric. This funding is designed to help our most vulnerable businesses weather the storm of the pandemic. We know that a racial wealth gap and barriers to capital exist,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz said. “We are designing a program that prioritizes assistance on utility bills for businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, and all People of Color (BIPOC) and women.”
“Many local businesses are facing significant hardships,” said Prosper Portland Executive Director Kimberly Branam. “We look forward to collaborating with the Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environment Services to create a program that provides equitable access to crucial utility payment assistance for small businesses in this challenging time.”
In addition to this support for small businesses, the bureaus have expanded the financial assistance program for residential customers. Portland City Council recently approved an expansion of the Water Leak Repair Assistance Program, which more than doubles funding to help income-qualified homeowners make necessary water leak repairs to their homes.
“We continue to look for ways to reduce barriers and get financial assistance to those in need,” Water Bureau Director of Customer Service Kathy Koch said. “We have temporarily relaxed eligibility requirements for our bill discount program, including the proof-of-income documentation requirement. We are seeing more people signing up for these programs and we are ready to help.”
The City of Portland utility bureaus continue to offer all customers no-interest flexible payment schedules. In response to the crisis, the utility bureaus have temporarily suspended late fees, collections and water shut-offs on accounts with past-due balances. Financial assistance may not cover an entire bill, so bureaus recommend that customers continue to make payments that are manageable to them to avoid a potentially larger balance in the future.
The financial assistance programs serve thousands of Portlanders and offer a menu of options for reducing or waiving portions of the utility bills. These include:
Services for residential customers:
• Utility Safety Net Program and crisis assistance provides flexible, long-term interest-free payment arrangements for those with employment, medical, or other personal emergencies.
• Bill discounts and crisis assistance are available for income-qualified customers.
• Assistance for renters in multi-family properties in the amount of up to $500 is available through a partnership with Home Forward for renters at risk of eviction. Contact 211 for assistance.
• Water leak repair assistance funds repairs of water leaks for income-qualified homeowners.
Services for all customers:
• Monthly statements offer the option of paying each month to avoid a quarterly bill that includes three months of sewer/stormwater/water charges.
• Clean River Rewards provide savings for those who manage stormwater on their property.
• Water Efficiency offers free water-saving devices and rebates for toilet and irrigation upgrades.
To learn more about how the City can help, or to view the detailed information about these programs, please start here. If you still have questions, email PWBCustomerService@portlandoregon.gov or contact City Customer Service staff at 503-823-7770. Limited staffing may result in longer response time.