BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (CBS Detroit/AP) — Michigan and City of Benton Harbor officials announced a pilot program Wednesday aimed at helping eligible residents of where there’s been a lead crisis pay water and wastewater bills.

The federally-funded program is designed to help households that have had water disconnected or are facing disconnection pay to have it restored. That includes other potential related costs including trash, cable and internet, according to the Michigan Department of Human Services (MDHHS).

READ MORE: Key Moments In Flint’s Lead-Tainted Water Crisis

“Access to safe drinking water is fundamental to the health and well-being of all people,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a news release. “The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program will provide critical emergency support to qualified Benton Harbor residents, so they are not forced to choose between paying for water services and other necessities.”

To qualify, account holders must:

  • Be a residential account.
  • Be in arrears or disconnect status.
  • Be under 150% Federal Poverty Limit and/or actively receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Food Assistance Program/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (FAP/SNAP), State Emergency Relief (SER), Social Security Supplemental Income (SSI).

The city is providing a list of customer accounts to MDHHS that are past due or in disconnect status for a data match to current benefit status to help determine eligibility and expediate the payment process. The earliest eligible customers would see updates on their billing statements is mid-December.

For more information about assistance, call 211.

READ MORE: Judge OKs $626 Million Settlement In Flint Water Litigation

Much of the city’s water distribution system is around 100 years old. The predominantly Black, mostly low-income community is about 100 miles from Chicago.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to spend millions of dollars to replace lead service lines. Construction on service line replacement began this week.

The estimated cost to replace 100% of the lead service lines is $30 million, with $18.6 so far delivered by the state of Michigan. Whitmer called on the Legislature to secure the remaining $11.4 million, utilizing the billions in federal funding under the American Rescue Plan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to test water in hundreds of homes to check certified filters given residents by the state to remove lead from the drinking water.

READ MORE: Gov. Whitmer Signs Bill Allowing Michigan Drivers To Choose 2-Year Vehicle Registration

Meanwhile, the city and state will continue the free water distribution.

Thursday, Nov. 11

  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 10 a.m. – noon.
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4-6 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 12

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Self-service)

Saturday, Nov. 13

  • Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor, 600 Nate Wells Sr. Drive, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.,
  • Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 769 Pipestone Street, 4-6 p.m.   

Sunday, November 14

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, 3-5 p.m.
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4-6 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 15

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Self-service)
  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon – 2 p.m.

Additional dates and locations for bottled water pick up will be added to make sure community needs are met. Information will be posted on Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe.

© 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.