Reality Check | ecoWURD | radio
Community Legal Services Philadelphia Lead Counsel Robert Ballenger joined ecoWURD on Reality Check with Charles Ellison to discuss sharp increases in Philadelphia water bills, the burden on low-income residents and if the city’s heralded “TAP” or Tiered Assistance Program is rising to the occasion. Ballenger expressed concerns about rising rates but also acknowledged that water utilities are faced with how infrastructure is under enormous strain from climate change impacts. “It is costly to provide the service,” notes Ballenger. He also discussed the future availability of federal dollars, and the distinction between offsetting capital spending and improvements and the day-to-day maintenance of the system.
“We did have a recent increase in water bills in September. These are increases the Water Department actually went before the water rate board and requested,” said Ballenger. “Customers’ bills are getting hit right now with a 3.6 percent increase and there’s another one on the horizon.
“These rate increases are closely tied to climate change and the need to upscale our infrastructure to meet the challenges of today. We have to update that and it is a very costly thing to do. There is all this other money out there and it changes how much water departments are charging customers.”
The TAP program, according to Ballenger, is not reaching everyone who needs help. There are two major problems: First, a lot of tenants do not qualify; landlords control whether tenants become customers – so, they can’t enroll. The other problem: Some application requirements are too burdensome.