Afloat: Utility Debt Relief

Two hands are shown holding yellow tomatoes under a faucet running water. Red tomatoes are on the counter near the sink in a brightly lit room.
The Afloat: Utility Debt Relief program helps reduce utility debt through bill credits for the City’s single-family residential sewer/stormwater/water customers. This program is funded by the American Rescue Plan, which is investing in Portland’s recovery – and our future.


The Portland Water Bureau (PWB) provides billing services for the City’s publicly-owned sewer/stormwater/water utilities. Due to the financial crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Portlanders have been unable to pay these bills. PWB estimates that since the onset of the pandemic, customer account balances have grown by $16.3 million.  

In collaboration with the Bureau of Environmental Services, the Office of Equity and Human Rights, and community partners the African American Alliance for Homeownership (AAAH), Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) and Verde, PWB will offer bill credits to help the most vulnerable Portlanders get payments back on track.  

Who does this program serve?

This program supports residential sewer/stormwater/water account holders who have overdue bills. Relief is offered as a bill credit for debt incurred due to financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, after March 13, 2020 to date.  

How do I apply for this program?  

Eligible customers will be contacted directly and invited to apply online. The Afloat application will be open from March 7, 2022, through April 11, 2022. 

You can apply if all these are true:

  • You pay your sewer/stormwater/water bill to the City of Portland; 

  • You have overdue charges on your household water bill; 

  • You have been affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic; and 

  • You meet the income guidelines on this chart:

If you have this number of people in your house…Your total household income must be less than this number.


February 2022: Program details are finalized, and materials are sent out for translation.  

March 2022: Applications open online and through community partnerships.  

April 2022: Direct outreach to customers, application period closes on April 11. 

May 2022: Selection Committee of community partners review funding scenarios and make decisions about how to prioritize the limited funds.  

June 2022: Bill credits will be posted to accounts based on selection committee priorities.  

How is this program funded?

The City of Portland has committed $2.6 million to this program. This money comes from the U.S. government’s 2021 American Rescue Plan local recovery funds. Portland will receive a total of $208 million from the American Rescue Plan and has until Dec. 31, 2026, to spend it. The City of Portland is spending money in three priority categories:

  • Houselessness Response and Household Stabilization
  • Small Business and Commercial District Stabilization
  • Community Health and Safety

Read more about these investments in this article: American Rescue Plan: Investing in Portland


The City is committed to sharing how American Rescue Act funding supports Portland people, households, businesses and community organizations. Check back for updates on the Rent Relief Program.


Sarah Santner