One month left for Buffalo Water customers to take advantage of financial aid program

Posted at 12:01 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 12:01:45-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — If you have been financially hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, you have until June 30th to sign up for a program meant to help you with your water bill.

The Buffalo Water Board's Water Amnesty Program waives interest fees and penalties on overdue water payments, and lets people pay of their water debt over a 12-month period.

But the program has its critics.

Steve Halpern, an attorney for the Western New York Law Center, has accused the program of violating New York State law by not promoting to customers in writing that they can take as long as they need to pay off their water debt.

Since 7 Eyewitness News first brought you Halpern's concerns in March, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes raised the issue on the Assembly floor.

"The company did not do the proper acknowledgment to constituents, so people didn't know that they had this availability to make these arrangements," said Peoples-Stokes.

But a new audit of Amnesty Program registrations indicates that the Water Board is indeed allowing people to pay off their water debt over an extended period of time. The Water Board's Chairman Oluwole McFoy says at least 997 people have signed up for the Water Amnesty Program, and of those, 501 have entered into a "flexible payment option." McFoy says 62% of customers have been provided terms that extend beyond the advertised 12-month payback window, however it is not clear how much extra time these customers are getting.

Halpern wants people to know their rights and sign up for the Amnesty Program so that they're not left further struggling to make ends meet after the Amnesty Program expires and customers are expected to pay their amounts owing in full.

Here is were you can sign up for the Water Amnesty Program.