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Suffolk to resume utility service cutoffs

The Suffolk Department of Public Utilities will resume cutting off service Sept. 1 for those who are delinquent in payment of their water and wastewater bills.

The Hampton Roads Utility Billing Service (HRUBS) Utility Bill Pandemic Relief Program began last August and has provided financial assistance to qualifying city of Suffolk customers who have had trouble paying due to employment impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is supported by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, and allows the department to provide the help through a statewide municipal utility relief fund.

Residential and non-residential customers with delinquent bill charges from March 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021 can still apply for assistance through the program. The city will still provide assistance to residents and businesses that qualify until Oct. 31, or until the money runs out.

Residents have until Oct. 31 to take advantage of the program. To check eligibility requirements or to apply by phone, city residents or business owners can call 757-514-7450. Those who have been helped twice by the program do not qualify for further assistance. To apply online, go to https://www.suffolkva.us/1471/COVID-19-Utility-Relief.

To qualify, applicants need to provide a phone or online self-certification that they have experienced COVID-related issues that have caused economic hardship such as a job layoff, job loss due to their place of employment closing, a reduction in work hours, having to stay home to care for children due to daycare or school closings, or a loss in child or spousal support.

The relief also covers people who have not been able to work due to COVID-19, or who have not been able to take part in their previous job due to a high risk of severe illness.

The assistance does not have to be paid back.

The city also froze water and sewer rates last year and continued that freeze through June.

When City Council approved the fiscal year 2021 budget last May, it deferred several previously planned increases to the rates.

In the proposed fiscal year 2022 budget, it had called for an average monthly water and sewer rate increase of $5.20 per month, or 5.4%. But after Mayor Mike Duman and Councilman Roger Fawcett asked City Manager Al Moor to look at the rates to see if the increases could be lowered, the increases were lowered to an average of $4.50 per month, or 4.7%.