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caption: Utilities relief for Seattle residents and small businesses will last until 2022, or at least until Mayor Jenny Durkan's civil emergency ends.
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Utilities relief for Seattle residents and small businesses will last until 2022, or at least until Mayor Jenny Durkan's civil emergency ends.
Credit: Flickr Photo/Joe Shlabotnik

Utility bills late? Seattle will give you until 2022 to start paying them back

People and small businesses in Seattle that couldn’t pay their utility bills during the pandemic got some good news today.

Normally, failing to pay your power, water, sewer or garbage bills can get expensive. Late fees – and interest on unpaid bills – can cause debt to spiral out of control.

During the pandemic, Seattle put late fees and interest on hold. But that relief was set to expire at the end of the month.

On June 1, the Seattle City Council voted to extend that relief until 2022, or at least until Mayor Jenny Durkan's civil emergency ends.

The city estimates the program will cost $8 million in 2021. But Councilmember Alex Pedersen said the utilities can stomach the loss.

“These are both one billion dollar enterprises – Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities … so relative to their overall budget, this is small. But it is still significant, and we don’t do it lightly,” he said.

Pedersen said in the new year, people behind on their utility bills will need to work out a payment plan with their utilities.

That doesn’t mean utilities are free. Next year, people will have to catch up on their payments. But Tuesday’s vote means those bills will be a little less expensive.