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Residents encouraged to call water assistance program

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 16, 2016

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STERLING HEIGHTS — With the summer heat just around the corner, Sterling Heights city officials are reminding low-income residents that they might be able to qualify for water bill payment assistance.

During a May 4 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Treasurer Jennifer Varney gave a brief presentation about the Water Residential Assistance Program that is available for some communities in the region.

Varney said WRAP was created and funded through the regional Great Lakes Water Authority, which officially became operational in January.

According to Varney, WRAP has made almost $4 million available to qualifying households, and she said around $468,000 of that total has been set aside for Macomb County residents.

“It is estimated this will help approximately 580 Macomb County residents per year,” she said.

The city of Sterling Heights had to opt into the program in order to let its residents request aid, and Varney said the city was the first in Macomb County to jump in, followed by four other communities in the county.

Households could be eligible for some aid if their household income ranks at or under 150 percent of the poverty level.

According to a flier associated with the program, the income guidelines provide a ceiling of $17,805 for one-member homes, $24,030 for two members, $30,240 for three, $36,450 for four and so on.

If a household is eligible, it may receive up to $1,000 annually in the form of a $25 monthly bill credit and up to $700 for past-due bills, she said. The home may also be eligible for as much as $1,000 worth of minor home plumbing repairs if those repairs could reduce water usage.

A water audit for higher-than-average water use, classes, and kits for saving water are other components of the program.

“In order to remain in the program, the participant must stay current on their water account and can remain in the program for up to two years,” Varney said.

She added that the program “truly offers meaningful assistance for the average customer.”

“I strongly encourage any resident who thinks they may qualify for this program to contact WRAP as soon as possible, as all dollars are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis,” she said. “As of today, three Sterling Heights residents have already been accepted into the program.”

Although the water authority created WRAP, Varney said the program is administered by the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency in conjunction with the group Macomb Community Action.

Mia Cupp, Wayne Metro chief development and communications officer, said WRAP launched in March. She said the program is trying to provide incentives for people to make good-faith payments and positive behavioral changes with their water usage. She said the program’s inclusion of conservation and education components could play a role in curbing unintended or wasteful water usage.

Cupp also talked about the popular demand for the program in the region.

“We have about 500 individuals or households enrolled in the program to date,” she said. “Interest has been extremely high, especially in the city of Detroit. … So part of what Wayne Metro as well as the other community metro programs are trying to do is address the crisis, which is (to) avoid water shutoffs.”

Details about the Water Residential Assistance Program can be found at or by calling (313) 386-9727. To learn more about Sterling Heights, click on or dial (586) 446-2489.