FAQs about Afloat: Utility Debt Relief

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Frequently asked questions about the Afloat program
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How did you decide who got a credit?

Applications were screened to make sure they met the following criteria:

  • The applicant pays sewer/stormwater/water bill to the City of Portland;
  • The applicant had overdue charges on their household water bill;
  • The applicant had been affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • The applicant met 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.
1$54,150
2$61,900
3$69,650
4$77,350
5$83,550
6$89,750
7$95,950
8$102,150

Applications that didn’t meet these criteria were not able to receive funding. Once we had our final pool of eligible applicants, we worked with our Community Selection Committee to provide bill credits to all eligible accounts.

How many applications did you receive?

The Afloat: Utility Debt Relief application was open from March 7th to April 11th. We received 2,601 applications. Of those applications, 79 were submitted using our translated applications in Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

  • Eligible applications = 2,004
  • Total eligible debt = $2.68 million
  • 47% of applicants identify as BIPOC (42% White and 11% I prefer not to say)
    • 17% Black or African American
    • 11% Latinx or Hispanic
    • 8% multiracial
    • 7% Asian
    • 1% American Indian or Alaska Native
    • 1% Middle Eastern/North African
  • 57% of applicants identify as women
  • 19% of applicants identify as living with a disability

How many credits did you give?

2,004 accounts will get an Afloat credit - all eligible applications received funding. Some applications were not eligible. The main reasons applications were not eligible were because the account either did not have any eligible debt, or it was a duplicate application.

What was the average Afloat credit amount?

The average Afloat credit is $1,336. Some applications got more and some got less, depending on their need.

I got a credit, but it doesn’t cover all the money that I owe. Why?

Only sewer/stormwater/water charges incurred between March 13, 2020, and March 7, 2022, were eligible for relief under the grant that funded Afloat. If your account had debt before March 13, 2020, we can’t use the grant funds to help relieve that burden. Please call our customer service team to see what options we might have for you. We offer long-term, interest-free payment arrangements for any customer who’s having trouble paying their bill, plus a bill discount and crisis voucher for people who qualify. Call 503-823-7770 for options or visit our financial assistance page.

Since this program only relieved some of the debt, is there a plan to relieve more in the future?

We continue to look for ways to support our customers’ recovery from the pandemic. If more funding becomes available, there may be additional opportunities to plan meaningful debt relief.

I got a notice that I am not eligible for Afloat because I don’t have any eligible charges. What does that mean?

Only sewer/stormwater/water charges incurred between March 13, 2020, and March 7, 2022, are eligible for relief under the grant that funded Afloat. If you received this notice, it’s because your account did not have debt from that time frame.

I got a notice that I am not eligible for Afloat because my application was incomplete. What can I do?

If your application was not complete, our staff called and emailed to try to reach you. Please contact our Afloat team at afloat@portlandoregon.gov to talk about your options.

I'm in debt, but I'm not eligible for this credit. What can I do?

  • If you pay your bill to the City of Portland, we can help. Call 503-823-7770 for options or visit our financial assistance page.
  • If you pay your landlord for water, contact them about options.
  • If you have a different water provider, check their website or call them for details.

How can I manage my bills in the future?

We can help. We offer payment arrangements for any customer who’s having trouble paying their bill, plus a bill discount and crisis voucher for people who qualify.

Where does the funding come from?

The funding ($2.6 million) comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The City of Portland applied for this funding to meet many needs across the city; relieving utility bill debt is just one part of a broader program.

Why doesn't the city just forgive all of the debt?

Portland’s sewer, stormwater, and water systems depend on Portlanders paying their bills. With everyone’s bill combined, the city can keep delivering drinking water, managing stormwater, and treating sewage. When bills go unpaid, we have to raise rates or cut services.

We’re also constrained by bond restrictions. Utilities, including the Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, sell bonds to fund capital improvements to our systems. Our bond agreements require us to charge for services provided.

I've been paying my bills this whole time. Is this fair?

It’s because of Portlanders paying their bills that we’ve been able to provide uninterrupted service despite the pandemic. That said, this pandemic has affected each person differently. This credit is for Portlanders who have faced extreme hardship due to the pandemic and need extra help. We would love to help everyone, but these limited funds must go to those who need it most.

Regardless of your payment history, you might qualify for a bill discount or crisis voucher. We offer those programs based on income. Visit our financial assistance page or call 503-823-7770 to find out if you’re eligible.

Is there a similar program for businesses? What about people who live in apartments? 

  • Businesses with utility debt may be able to use funding from other federal and local sources to help them pay their bills. Visit Prosper Portland’s COVID-19 Business Resources page for options.
  • People who live in apartments (and landlords) may be eligible for emergency rental assistance, which can be used to pay sewer/stormwater/water utility charges.