DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The Detroit Water and Sewage Department says it’s increasing the amount of financial assistance available to low-income customers with overdue water bills amid a new round of water shutoffs beginning next month.

The department announced Tuesday that the Detroit Water Fund will now cover up to 50 percent of past-due amounts for qualifying low-income households that owe between $300 and $2,000. The water fund also will pay as much as 25 percent of future bills for up to 12 months.

The fund is also allowing people who have defaulted on payment plans to reapply without penalty.

[800 A Day: Detroit Water Department Prepares To Issue Shutoff Warnings]

A new round of water shutoffs is scheduled to start May 1 and affect up to 28,000 customers.

Officials say the city has roughly 170,000 residential water customers, with more than 50 percent of those accounts 60 days or $150 delinquent.

Shut-off numbers skyrocketed from about 1,200 from January 2014 through March 2014 to more than 3,000 in April 2014. Things hit a fever pitch in June when 7,200 customers were cut-off, prompting protests and drawing the attention of the United Nations. A weeks-long respite allowed people behind on their bills to enter into payment plans.

But it might be even harder for residents to make good on their delinquent bills this year. Officials with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department last month approved a 3.4 percent hike in water rates, plus a 16.7 percent increase in sewer rates. Those new rates are set to take effect July 1.

The water department said they’re also making plans to target businesses with overdue bills and residences with illegal hookups, as well as ensuring service to fire hydrants.

For information on the Detroit Water Fund, call 313-267-8000 or visit www.DetroitWaterFund.org.

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