SECTION 1. Notwithstanding any general or specific law to the contrary, section 24B of chapter 23B of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out in its entirety and inserting in place thereof the following new text:-
Section 24B. The department shall, subject to appropriation, operate a low-income sewer and water assistance program to provide assistance in paying the sewer and water bills of homeowners who are eligible for the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program, so called, created by the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Act, 42 United States Code sections 8621 et seq., or any successor acts thereto. Said program may be administered in coordination with the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Act, 42 United States Code sections 8621 et seq., or any successor acts thereto, subject to the following provisions: shall establish benefit rates and maximum benefits such that total benefits paid do not exceed the amount appropriated for this benefit;
(a) the department shall use the same grantee agencies, similar applications and similar verification procedures as are used in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, to the maximum extent possible. Grantee agencies shall utilize a reasonable percentage of any funds appropriated, not exceeding 10 per cent of such funds, for administrative costs of the program.
(b) the benefit level provided to any individual household eligible under this program shall not be greater than 25 per cent of the total annual water and sewer bill for the household; provided, however, that the department shall establish benefit rates and maximum benefits such that total benefits paid do not exceed the amount appropriated for this benefit.
(c) households which receive benefits under this program shall not unreasonably refuse to cooperate with any demand-side water conservation programs which are provided at no expense to the household by any local agency or authority.
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