THE National Water Commission (NWC) says it expects to forego more than half a billion dollars in revenue as it rolls out initiatives to assist customers who are struggling to pay their bills at this time.
The waivers, although open to all customers, are aimed at vulnerable groups, such as pensioners, those receiving social assistance, and individuals who have displayed a pattern of paying their water bills.
Yesterday, NWC President Mark Barnett announced the latest reprieve — a 30 per cent discount for residential and condominium customers. He said about 19,000 of the NWC’s more than 500,000 customers are expected to take up the offer, amounting to a $500-million debt write-off.
However, Barnett said the company expects to recoup that amount from the anticipated payments.
“NWC is likely to benefit by the same amount once those customers take up the offer. Some of the amounts that are owing are not large sums, and therefore we are expecting a similarly equal benefit from the programme,” he stated.
Barnett stressed that the discount initiative, which started yesterday and will continue until July 31, will not be extended.
He was speaking at a virtual press conference yesterday, where he also mentioned the utility company’s application to the Office of Utilities Regulation for a relaxation of the compensation mechanism for specific guaranteed standards up to the end of June.
“On average monthly, there are about 19,000 customers who we believe are in a position to take up this offer quite quickly. Combining those customers who may have been inactive — who may have been disconnected for not paying but have demonstrated in the past a willingness to pay — plus those customers who wouldn’t necessarily pay their full bills on a monthly basis, these are the customers who would really benefit because, by their own action, they have demonstrated an interest and a willingness to pay their water bills,” he explained.
The NWC stressed that the commission did not arrive at its decision lightly.
“We carefully crunched our numbers and balanced some business practices with well-needed support for customers… Although we, too, are facing our fair share of financial challenges because of COVID-19, [and], like all businesses, our revenues have been impacted,” he said.
Barnett also announced that NWC will be foregoing $50 million in reconnection fees from customers who were disconnected prior to Jamaica’s first case of COVID-19 on March 10, who may now be illegally reconnected.
Barnett also disclosed that there has been an increase in arrears over the past six weeks, while at the same time, there has been a 15 per cent increase in domestic water consumption.
Some of the NWC’s capital projects have been set back by the COVID-19 crisis, Barnett said, adding that delays should therefore be expected as some activities will have to be “shaved off”.
“Under the current circumstances, our projects would definitely be affected. Although we currently have works in progress in St Elizabeth, St Catherine, St Mary, [and] St James, those are affected because persons on those jobs are also fearful as well. We are going through a detailed review of our capital projects [and] overall budget that we developed prior to the start of this year. We will be making serious shaving off of some of those activities, because the realities are of such that there is a great degree of uncertainty,” he outlined.
Meanwhile, he said the details are being ironed out for a conservation incentive programme, which the NWC plans to roll out within the next week.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive