Pierce on Unpaid Water Bills and Challenges Ahead

Gregory Pierce, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to Circle of Blue about California’s policy of suspending water shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of utilities and dozens of state governors and regulatory agencies have suspended the practice of shutting off water for residents who are late paying their utility bills and have eliminated late fees during the emergency period. However, Pierce expressed his concern that “residents are expected to pay those bills after the emergency orders are lifted, which could pose problems down the road for both individuals and utilities.” Pierce, an adjunct professor of urban planning, explained that “low-income residents are not going to have any greater ability to pay six months of bills six months from now than they are today.” Instead, Pierce argued that “utilities have to eat some of the loss” and they “have to expect less than 100% repayment.” 


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