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Low Income Household Water Assistance Program or LIWAP Now Open

November 30, 2021

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced the State of North Carolina has been awarded more than $38 million in federal funding to establish a new water assistance program for households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beginning Wednesday, eligible households that have had their water services cut off or have received notice that their water services are in danger of being cut off can apply for assistance in paying their bill through a new federal program called the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program(LIHWAP).

LIHWAP is a temporary emergency program that will help eligible households and families afford water and wastewater services. The program provides a one-time payment for eligible low-income households directly to the utility company. LIHWAP runs through September 2023 or until the funds run out.

"Due to the pandemic and its impact on our economy, many households are struggling to maintain their water service," said Tara Myers, NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Employment, Inclusion and Economic Stability. "The LIHWAP program will help families in North Carolina keep their water running, a basic human need that’s critical for good sanitation and better health."

Households that currently receive Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Work First services, or those that received Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) services between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, are automatically eligible to receive this benefit if their water services have been cut off or are in danger of being cut off.

All other households that have had their water services or are in danger of losing it can apply starting Dec. 1, 2021, online at epass.nc.gov Individuals can also apply by printing a paper application from epass.nc.govand dropping it off at or faxing it to their local county Department of Social Services or by calling their local county Department of Social Services to apply by phone.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, all households that are not in danger of having their water service cut off can apply for assistance if they meet the eligibility requirements. To be eligible for the LIHWAP program, a household must have at least one U.S. citizen or non-citizen and:

  • Have income equal to or less than 150% of the federal poverty level,
  • Have household services that are disconnected, in jeopardy of disconnection or have a current outstanding bill, and
  • Be responsible for the water bill

Households can apply starting Wednesday through Sept. 30, 2023, or until funds are exhausted.

For more information on this program and eligibility, visit the LIHWAP website at www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/energy-assistance/low-income-household-water-assistance-program-lihwap.

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Be Aware of Scams and Avoid Imposters - Tips to Help You be Safe!

October 20, 2021

Never provide or confirm personal information (Social Security number, date of birth) or financial information (banking account information, debit, or credit card information) to anyone initiating contact with you, whether by phone, in-person, or email, claiming to be a utility company representative.

If your utility leaves you a message or contacts you by phone, it will typically ask to speak to the person whose name is listed on the account, and if you call your utility, it may ask for some personal information to confirm your identity for your protection.

Never give out information or provide any payment type to any callers or unexpected individual(s) appearing at your home or business claiming to represent your utility. Your utility will have your relevant personal and account information.

Do not be rushed. If someone calls, appears, or emails saying you have to pay your bill immediately to avoid disconnection, tell them you would like to verify that they are a legitimate utility company representative by calling a verified number for the utility company.

Beware if a caller or in-person representative exhibits impatience, annoyance, or anger when you question their authority. Notice if their emotion intensifies when you ask to speak with their manager, request their phone number, or offer to call back later.

While a scammer will discourage you from hanging up and calling the number on your utility bill, a real utility representative will encourage you to do so for your own peace of mind.

Know that your questions may scare the scammer off. If not, document what the scammer told you, including the name they provided you, the date and time you spoke with them, their caller ID number, their employee identification number, the method, and amount of payment they requested, any phone number they requested you call to pay your bill, and any other details that might aid in a possible criminal investigation.

If you purchased a prepaid card and provided the card’s number to the scammer for payment, record the prepaid card number as well.

Call your utility immediately to inform them of the scam and give this information to your utility when you call. If you want to check on your account, call your utility’s phone number provided on your monthly bill, or on their website, or log into your account on the website.

‘Never make a utility bill payment to anyone calling you on the phone, coming to your door (unless

that is a verified bill payment method used by your utility company), texting you, or emailing you.

Always call your utility company, at the number provided on your bill or on the utility’s website, if you have a question about payment or billing information.

Know your utility bill payment options—online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail, or in person.

Never wire money or give the number from a prepaid card to someone you do not know.

Once you do, you cannot get your money back. Be suspicious if the caller is requiring the   use of a specific payment option, like a prepaid card, as utilities never ask or require a customer to purchase a prepaid card to avoid disconnection.

Review guides like this, local news reports and websites, utility and trade association websites (including www.UtilitiesUnited.org), local law enforcement websites, state attorneys general websites, federal government websites, consumer information websites, and research incoming phone numbers you do not recognize.

Scammers are constantly updating their tactics, and you will need to stay educated on new types of scams and tips to avoid them.

Pass on information about impostor electric, water, and natural gas scams to people you know.

 

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No Wipes in the Pipes!

July 1 2021

Disinfectant wet wipes, paper towels and toilet paper are flying off the shelves. These products help keep us clean and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But when we remember that products like baby wipes and wet wipes are not as “flushable” as typically advertised, it’s no surprise that we’re now at a greater risk for sewer blockages in our commun
ities.

If TP isn’t available, it’s easy to reach for an alternative – but keep in mind these wipes need to stay out of our pipes, period. Keep a bin next to the toilet for disposal! Do with wet wipes what you’d do with a baby’s diaper or other hygiene products.

When “flushable” wipes enter your plumbing system, they don’t disintegrate like regular ol’ toilet paper. They often hold together better than a paper towel and they require more water to travel the distance from inside your house to the buried sewer lines outside. At some point in this journey, you’re going to get a clog! If wipes survive the trip to the water treatment plant, they just clog up the giant pumps there, creating even bigger problems.

So now that we’re never flushing our wet wipes again, are you wondering what else doesn’t belong down the drain? Read this quick list of items we’re all guilty of tossing… Now here’s to helping our pipes stay clog-free.

  1. Q-Tips and cotton balls – They will never disintegrate like TP, so don’t flush ‘em.
  2. Feminine hygiene products – Pads and tampons are meant to absorb liquids, not break down in them. They are never safe to flush.
  3. Dental floss – Floss might look harmless, but this stuff is tough. It can create a net when it’s swishing around in your pipes and wrap around parts of your septic system, even burning out the motor.
  4. Diapers – No no no no no! Diaper pails exist for a reason.
  5. Condoms – They’re designed to never break down in water. Put it in the trash.
  6. Medication – Toilet water doesn’t break down the prescription drugs you flush, meaning that whatever you’re taking will end up in the environment. Throw into the trash or return it to a pharmacy.
  7. Kitty Litter – Some cat litter brands advertise as being flushable, but don’t believe the hype. All it does is make water more difficult to purify on the other end.
  8. Cigarettes – Ciggie butts are full of chemicals! Don’t smoke them and don’t flush them.
  9. Hair – When flushed, hair acts like dental floss and creates a net that gets caught on everything. Plus, it never dissolves in water, no matter how long its there.
  10. Bleach – It’s too harsh of a chemical to use as a part of your routine cleaning, try getting toilet stains out with vinegar instead.