HomeFlorence CountyCity of Florence faces issues with CARE program billing system

City of Florence faces issues with CARE program billing system

Florence, South Carolina – An issue linked to the CARE program in June 2024 caused about 7,800 customer accounts to be rounded up, even though these customers had previously opted out, City of Florence officials reported on Tuesday.

The CARE Program rounds up the monthly bills of new and existing customers to the nearest dollar. The extra funds are collected in a special account to help prevent water shut-offs for those who can’t pay their bills.

Customers have the option to opt out of the program at any time. Officials noted that the maximum any customer would pay annually is $11.88. The city expressed regret for the error and any inconvenience it caused.

The city released a statement on social media stating:

Attention Customers:

It has come to our attention that there was an error associated with the CARE program for the June 2024 billing that resulted in approximately 7,800 customer accounts being rounded up despite having previously opted out of the program.

City of Florence staff apologizes for this error and for any inconvenience this has created for our customers. We are in the process now of running a report to identify the accounts that have been impacted and will begin manually issuing account credits once this information is received.

Read also: Florence mayoral race heats up with Democratic candidates forum hosted by League of Women Voters Florence chapter

What is the CARE program?

Earlier this year, the City of Florence announced the CARE program aimed towards local residents who are struggling with paying their bills. Per the program that officially went into effect on May 1, all water and sewer service users, both within and beyond the city of Florence limits, were automatically signed up for the “Coins that Add Relief and Enable” (CARE) program. This initiative aimed to adjust the monthly bills of both new and current customers to the next full dollar amount. The maximum contribution per customer per year is limited to $11.88.

The City of Florence explained that these contributions will be directed into a dedicated fund designed to prevent the discontinuation of water services for individuals who are struggling to make their payments. Even a minimal monthly donation from the customers can make a substantial difference to community members who need support. Customers were given the option to withdraw from the program at any point.

Those who want to participate in the program should meet the following requirements:

  • Applicants must be participants in the program; they cannot have opted out.
  • Maximum assistance of up to $150.00 is available once every six months.
  • Applicants must reside at the address stated on the utility bill; however, when the bill is in the name of a household member other than the applicant, the applicant must provide proof s/he resides at that address, a relationship to the applicant (if applicable) and approval to access that account. Domestic partners living in the same household do not need approval to access the account.
  • Applications will not be accepted if the person whose name appears on the bill has been deceased for longer than 12 months (except where the applicant is the spouse of the deceased), with proof required that the individual has been deceased less than 12 months; bill is in a minor’s name; or bill is in non-household adult’s name.
  • When the bill is in the name of the landlord, the landlord must provide a statement indicating that the applicant is permitted to access that account, including making payment on the account. The file must include this documentation. The customer must provide a current Lease Agreement indicating the account is in the landlord’s name, but the bill is the responsibility of the tenant.
  • May be used to pay service fees required for new service.
  • Applicant must provide a copy or original utility (water) bill; the bill must have been issued within the last 30 days to verify the account number. Bill must detail all past due and current charges.
  • Assistance funds cannot be used to pay bills that are in cut-off/disconnection status within five (5) days of the application date.
  • Assistance funds may not be used to pay customer contributions that are voluntarily donated for round programs; those fees must be deducted from the customer’s utility bill and excluded from the assistance fund amount.
  • Assistance overage from a payment shall remain as a credit balance on the utility account until exhausted. No cash-out or refund benefits will be allowed for overage.

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