Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

Dealing with mounting sewer or water bills or a shut-off notice can be scary, especially during the winter months. Several programs can offer assistance, but navigating them can be frustrating. They often have different income rules, and the applications can require you to submit multiple documents. 

Water bill assistance: Low Income Water Assistance Program

The Low Income Water Assistance Program is a temporary federal program through at least September 2023 that provides relief to people behind on water and sewer bills. 

Who is eligible? Ohioans at or below 200% of the 2023 federal poverty guideline who pay for their water and sewer bills. For a family of four that would be a yearly income of $60,000

What paperwork is needed?

  • Copies of your most recent water and sewer bills
  • Photo ID
  • Social Security cards for each household member
  • Proof of U.S Citizenship or legal residency for each household member
  • Income verification for the past 30 days or 12 months for each household member over age 18
  • If you’re a renter, a copy of your lease that shows you are responsible for water/sewer.

How to apply? Cuyahoga County residents can call (216) 350-8008 to make an appointment, or schedule online at:

Water and Sewer Affordability Program

CHN Housing Partners administers a water and sewer affordability program for the city of Cleveland’s Division of Water and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. The program provides a 40% discount to homeowners on both their water and sewer bills.

Who is eligible?

For the water affordability program: You must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty line, which under the 2023 guidelines is $55,500 for a family of four. You can be a homeowner ora renter.You must be a homeowner for the water affordability program.

For the sewer affordability program: You must be at or below 250% of the federal poverty line, which under the 2023 guidelines is $75,000 for a family of four. You can be a homeowner or a renter.

What paperwork is needed? 

  • Photo ID.
  • Verification for  household members (Social Security card preferred, or birth certificate)
  • Documents to verify all income received in the last 60 days–pay stubs, benefit statements, etc.
  • Copies of utility bills.
  • Each year, you must re-verify your income in order to be eligible for a new year.

How to apply? Call CHN Housing Partners at (216) 774-2349 or go to https://chnhousingpartners.org/utilityassistance/.

Homestead Water and Sewer Program

Cleveland Water and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District offer a program that provides a lower fixed charge and consumption rate for their customers, run through the city’s Department of Public Utilities. 

Who is eligible?

  • You must be 65 years or older or “totally and permanently disabled,” according to the city’s definition. That means you have some “impairment in body or mind” that makes you unable to work for a period of at least 12 months or “indefinitely.”
  • You must own and live at the home where the water or sewer bill is being sent.
  • You must earn $36,300 or less per year.
  • You must re-enroll every three years.
  • You cannot be enrolled in the affordability program.

What paperwork is needed? If you have a disability, you must have your physician sign the application affirming that fact. Otherwise, no additional documents are required.

How to apply? Go to https://www.clevelandwater.com/customer-service/water-rates/discount-programs to download the application. Fill it out and send it to: Division of Water, Homestead Unit, P.O. Box 94687, Cleveland, Ohio 44101-4687.

Sewer Crisis Program

CHN also administers the sewer crisis program through the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. It provides a payment to people who have experienced a hardship within the last six months. 

Customers of the sewer district are eligible once every 12 months and can apply if they have documentation to prove the hardship. To apply, call CHN Housing Partners at (216) 774-2349 or go to https://chnhousingpartners.org/utilityassistance/.

Medical Certificates 

Customers facing a disconnection may be eligible for a 30-day delay if a medical professional certifies that the disconnection would be a danger to the health of the customer or that they or a member of their household rely on life-supporting equipment, like an oxygen machine. 

PRC: Prevention, Retention and Contingency

What is PRC? Parents, caregivers and expectant mothers can apply once a year for short-term emergency needs, including utility bills. Applicants must first apply to other programs for help. The payment is capped at $1,500 per year.

Detailed information for Cuyahoga County applicants can be found on the county’s website.

Who is eligible? Applicants must earn 200% or less of the 2023 federal poverty guideline, which is $60,000 for a family of four. Typically, approved applicants must not have more than $1,000 in the bank or available, but certain exceptions may apply. Applicants need to provide documents showing proof of income, residency, minor children, and an attempt to apply to other programs. Those documents can be:

  • Income: W-2 form or last two pay stubs
  • Residency: A utility bill with a shut-off notice
    • Columbia Gas: A termination notice 
    • Dominion/East Ohio Gas: Letter showing a shut-off notice or final bill 
    • Illuminating Co./FirstEnergy: Disconnection notice statement
    • Cleveland Public Power: Bill with a past-due balance
    • Cleveland Water: Final notice or statement showing the account is in shut-off or delinquent status. 
  • Minor children: Birth certificate or Social Security card
  • Application to other programs: Determination letter from the state

How to apply:

This guide was originally created as a project of the Northeast Ohio Solutions Journalism Collaborative. Signal Cleveland staff members Olivera Perkins, Abbey Marshall, Stephanie Casanova, Gennifer Harding-Gosnell, Candice Wilder, April Urban and Rachel Dissell updated the guide in January 2023. Mary Ellen Huesken edited the guide.