California Water Service, which provides water service to Los Altos residents along with many other districts in California, has provided more than $500,000 in COVID-19 relief for customers.
The utility company has forgiven more than $402,000 worth of past-due water balances for customers who have fallen behind during the pandemic and donated an additional $88,200 toward medical and charitable organizations in its local service areas with an employee matching-funds program.
Rob Seeley, Cal Water’s regional community affairs specialist for the Bay Area, said the company was one of the first water service providers in the country to commit to not having any service interruptions for customers due to lack of payment. And because people are spending more time at home during the pandemic, it is important that their water remained on.
“One of the biggest concerns was when this first started we knew very little, but what we did know was washing your hands was probably one of the best ways to combat this,” Seeley said. “We wanted to make sure that didn’t become a concern for anybody, regardless of their financial situation.”
In February, prior to the pandemic, the company held a safety training on what to do if it lost a majority of its workforce due to illness.
“At the time, it sounded absolutely crazy, a little apocalyptic,” said Dawn Smithson, Cal Water’s district manager for Los Altos. “Now it sounds really insightful. It’s amazing how perspectives can change.”
Customers who are having trouble making payments due to the pandemic are encouraged to reach out to Cal Water representatives. Employees are working throughout the pandemic as essential workers.
Smithson said that from the very beginning, the message from the top was: “You don’t turn people’s water off.”
“We’re all part of this together,” she said. “We’re all going to have to make an effort to get through this pandemic together. It was the right thing to do.”
For more information, visit calwater.com.