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City approves utility deferments, waivers during COVID-19 crisis

In an effort to address the continuing COVID-19 crisis and support small businesses and city residents, the Tehachapi City Council met in a Special Meeting on March 18 in front of City Hall to vote on a temporary policy to defer water, sewer and trash payments for small businesses and to waive late fees for residential customers for two months. With Councilman Phil Smith on the phone, the council unanimously approved the plan.

The program includes an opt-in for businesses to defer utility payments (water, sewer, trash) for usage in the months of March and April.. The amount due for these months can then be spread over payments for the next six months (May-October). If not paid by the end of the year, they will remain a receivable with payment expected. The program will be available to small businesses consistent with the definition of

United States Small Business Administration standards.

For residents, the City will waive late payment charges for the months of March and April, and will be suspending water shut-offs until May. This is essentially the same arrangement offered to businesses.

According to Assistant to the City Manager Corey Costelloe, the City is the provider of these services and maintains a healthy Utility Fund with enough reserves to allow for payment deferrals. The City has a contract with Waste Management for trash pick up and they will use the City General Fund to make sure Waste Management is paid in full every month. Deferred payments from the opt-in program will be used to repay the General Fund. The City is also willing to work with residents to create a payment plan.

They reminded everyone that water, sewer and trash are the only services over which they have control and only within the city limits. They have no control over gas and electric service supplied by gas companies or Southern California Edison.