Enduring economic struggles in Southern Humboldt forced the Redway Community Services District (RCSD) to shut off water and wastewater services for 16 customers on Thursday. Another 126 customers – more than 20 percent of the district’s service area – are expected to receive shut-off notices next month.

RCSD sent delinquency notices to 23 customers on Monday morning, as originally reported by Redheaded Blackbelt. Several customers were able to pay their bills or set up a payment plan within the 48-hour time frame. Those who could not pay had their water and wastewater services shut off at the meter.

“We had to shut off services for 16 accounts,” RCSD Office Manager Glenn Gradin told the Outpost this morning. “We’ll run our reports again at the end of this month and see who is still on the 90-day delinquency list. Another 60 customers – and then probably another 30 of the worst ones – will probably receive [delinquency notices] with their bills if they still haven’t paid or made arrangements to make payments.”

At the beginning of this month, RCSD was owed approximately $97,000 in delinquent payments, forcing the district to dip into its savings to maintain regular operations.

When asked what factors had fueled the rise in delinquent payments within the district, Gradin said there were “lots of little things” at play, including inflation and impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, but largely attributed the current situation to the ongoing collapse of the cannabis market.

“We would get people to be coming in with [small bills] to pay their $300 or $400 water bill because they were trimming,” he said. “Those jobs are gone. They’re just gone. There’s not enough work for people around here that actually pays a living wage. The rents around here are through the roof … and what money they have is going toward rent and food, not their other bills.”

Gradin urged RCSD customers – or really anyone struggling to pay off delinquent utility bills – to apply for financial assistance through the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) which will pay up to $2,000 in past-due water and wastewater bills. 

“People have been very hesitant to apply for [the program] because they assume they will be denied,” he said. “We’ve only had seven people in our service district complete the process because people often think that your earnings have to be extremely low or that you’re in a really dire situation but this program was designed to have looser conditions for getting help.”

Those interested in applying for the program will have to schedule an appointment through the Redwood Coast Action Agency by calling 707-443-3831. 

More information can be found at this link.