PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) – Few things are more important than keeping the lights on or running water.

Officials with the Passaic Valley Water Commission, serving Paterson, Passaic and Clifton, announced Thursday there’s a way out for those behind on their bills:

“Subsidy opportunities, no-interest payment plans,” said Jim Mueller, Executive Director of the Passaic Valley Water Commission. “We’re not trying to make money at all off of delinquent balances, more to get them under control. We’re ready to work with our customers and get the word out.”

Officials with the Water Commission said, in terms of dollars owed, bill delinquencies doubled during the pandemic. In addition, the City of Paterson officials said about 7,500 customers had been affected by potential utility shutoffs.

“COVID hit everyone very hard financially and in other ways, and we’re sensitive to that,” said Mueller.

City Councilwoman and Water Authority Commissioner Ruby Cotton said landlords are among those calling for help.

“They haven’t been getting rent because people have not been paying rent due to COVID,” said Cotton, “and they’re behind, so that means now they can’t pay some of the bills they need to pay, and water was one of them.

“Some commercial people probably owe $20, $30,000. But [the commission] are still going to work with them.”

It also announced Thursday a continuation of Paterson’s guaranteed income program. Last year, 110 city residents were picked from a lottery to receive a $400 monthly stipend for a year. Now, through American Rescue Plan money, Mayor Andre Sayegh says it’s back, and they’re expanding it to 200 people.

“This should also assist in this endeavor, as far as paying bills are concerned, having extra income,” said Sayegh. 

It will be open to city residents who meet an income requirement and is expected to re-launch later this year.

“We’re a city of solutions, we’re a city of synergy, that’s why we have this partnership, to help the people that we serve,” said Sayegh.