Several media and community organizations will hold a workshop designed to help Chicagoans who have water bill debt. The workshop, based on a 2021 report by WBEZ investigative journalist Maria Ines Zamudio, will be held Tuesday, April 12 at 6 p.m.
Zamudio’s report, published in 2021, found tens of thousands of Chicagoans were struggling to pay water bills to the city, with Black and Brown communities disproportionately affected. Blacks in Green, an environmental justice group, has partnered with WBEZ and Elevate to host the community workshop as part of the organization’s Black Chicago Water Council series.
“This will be a place for people struggling with water debt to come and get some real answers from the city,” Zamudio said during a recent interview. “There are also workshops that will teach people if there’s a lien on their property due to debt.”
Zamudio said during her investigation, she found out that not only did Chicagoans struggle with access to water, but they also struggled with knowledge about how water even made it to their property.
“Many people didn’t know how water was measured or if their property is metered or not, and they just didn’t understand the basic rules and regulations around water access,” Zamudio said.
This workshop will review those rules and regulations. In addition, residents who have been struggling to have their questions answered by the city can ask them during the workshop.
Representatives from the city’s finance department will present on the water billing process and take questions from participants.
Zamudio said she also hopes that her reporting and the upcoming workshop will spark a larger conversation about the state of water access in the city and across the country.
“There’s such a stigma around not having running water. People are afraid of being judged or getting their kids taken away if it’s found out that they can’t afford running water,” she said.
“We want people to come to this workshop and realize they’re not alone and that there are some things you can do to alleviate your debt and get support.”
Those interested in attending the workshop need to fill out this brief registration survey. A recap of the workshop will be available to those who registered.