DETROIT (WWJ/AP) — A New York investment banking company has donated $1 million to a fund designed to help low-income Detroit residents pay their water bills and avoid shutoffs.

The Heat and Warmth Fund announced Sunday that Manhattan-based Miller Buckfire & Co. made the largest gift the nonprofit group ever received from anyone other than a utility company.

Known as THAW, the group says the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department approached it last summer to administer an aid program for those needing help paying their water bills.

“For the first time in 30 years we’ll be able to help families stabilize the entire home,” THAW CEO Saunteel Jenkins told WWJ Newsradio 950.

THAW says the pilot water aid program helped about 700 people.

“What often happens is that families are picking and choosing what to pay, so sometimes they’ll have to choose to pay water instead of gas or electric, or gas instead of water,” Jenkins said. “We’ll be able to assist with all of those things, so it’s very exciting for THAW as well as the families that we serve.”

As part of last year’s financial reorganization, Detroit began working to collect from tens of thousands of delinquent water customers.

Collection efforts are underway for an estimated 28,000 delinquent customer accounts.


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