A New York investment firm has donated $1 million to help residents of Detroit pay for water at their homes amid the latest threats of shut-offs by city officials attempting to recover nearly $49 million in unpaid water bills.
Miller Buckfire gave $1 million to The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), a nonprofit organization based in Detroit that has traditionally provided financial assistance to residents who face utility cut-offs because of inability to pay. THAW will use the money to ramp up a water assistance program that has been running in pilot mode up to this point and has already served 700 residents.
About 21,000 Detroit residents are currently at risk of having their water shut off because they owe at least $150 on their water bill or their bill is more than 60 days overdue, Detroit Free Press reports. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department recently issued 3,000 shutoff notifications to households with past due invoices despite the fact that the City Council requested a moratorium on shutoffs until financial assistance programs and subsidies could be made available to residents in need.
The $1 million donation should prevent at least 1,500 households from losing their water. Many residents have faced repeated threats of shut-offs as Detroit city officials struggle to offer relief in the face of grave budget concerns. The new assistance program through THAW is slated to launch June 1.
"Being financially minded folks, we can see that it benefits residents in a meaningful way," James Doak, managing director at Miller Buckfire, told Detroit Free Press. "And it benefits the city. It keeps residents in their households and keeps houses occupied which prevents blight."
The donation was made as part of a settlement reached in December 2014 between Detroit and Miller Buckfire. Detroit was a client of the investment firm when the city filed for bankruptcy, but city officials later disputed the firm’s compensation.