When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States, many companies committed to ethical practices that help their employees and customers. Some set up funds to aid people disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, while others initiated programs designed to ease their customers’ financial burdens.
At San Antonio Water System (SAWS), one such program was already in place to bring swift assistance to customers facing impending financial uncertainty. What started as just a handful of assistance programs in 2000 has since developed into SAWS Uplift – the umbrella for 14 different programs that help ease the burden of paying monthly water bills.
SAWS Uplift, established in 2018, assists more than 32,000 families each year. For some, it is with monthly bill assistance of up to $28.35 depending on family size and income; for others, it might be a one-time emergency payment.
“The purpose of SAWS Uplift is to help our neighbors,” said Gavino Ramos, vice president of Communications and External Affairs. “Sometimes, that means giving them a little extra time to pay their bill. In other cases, it might mean helping them fix a plumbing issue.”
Paying water bills doesn’t need to be an added stressor during this time of uncertainty. SAWS wants to make sure no family ever has to be disconnected because it can’t pay a bill.
Through SAWS Uplift, customers only need to submit one application to find out if they qualify for any of 14 assistance programs – each one helping customers keep their water on.
But according to Rebecca Gonzalez, SAWS Uplift assistance specialist, the impact of the programs is so much more.
“On the surface, it seems like we’re just ensuring that their water isn’t turned off,” Gonzalez explained. “But from the one-on-one conversations we’ve had with our customers, we’ve realized that to them, it’s so much more than that.”
“Whether it’s the senior benefit, disability benefit, or affordability discount, our programs allow customers to use those funds on other vital necessities such as purchasing groceries,” Gonzalez said.
The program also provides neighbors who may be more in a financially stable situation the opportunity to give back. With Project Agua, people can donate to an emergency payment assistance fund designed to assist their fellow residential customers who might need a little extra financial help.
Donating to Project Agua is a simple process, and every tax-deductible contribution makes a difference, no matter the size. Those able to help can find a donation box on the return portion of their SAWS bill and simply add the amount they’d like to contribute to their monthly payment, which is just another way of showing how neighbors are all in this together.
And for a limited time through Nov. 12, for every $10 donation to Project Agua, donors will receive a 2020 Fiesta “Sewer Things” light-up medal. Donations can be made easily online to receive a voucher email to pick up one of these exclusive medals during drive-thru events on Nov. 7 and Nov. 13 at SAWS headquarters.
To learn about ways SAWS is helping the community during times of emergencies and financial hardship, visit saws.org/uplift.