More than six months after the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) established a committee to review applications for persons requesting a waiver from the Garbage and Sewage Collection (GSC) tax, some customers within that vulnerable bracket are complaining that there is still no relief in sight, despite submitting their applications months ago.
According to one out-of-work mother of four, who referred to herself only as Arlene, she applied four months ago for relief from the $45 increase on her water bill, but to date there has been no response.
“I don’t work anywhere so I went to the Welfare Department for help to pay the water bill, but they told me to apply for the exemption at water authority. This is four months now that I have applied to get the GSC taken off but up to now they have not gotten back to me. I don’t work anywhere, where am I supposed to keep getting this money from? This is just too long. Poor people are out here suffering,” she said.
Her niece, who did not want to be named, told Barbados TODAY that she too applied for relief two months ago, but like her aunt, no response has been forthcoming. “I don’t work, and it is not a case that I have not been trying to find a job for the last three years. All I have is what the children fathers give them when the month come. I applied for the relief, but I am not hearing anything back. I don’t have it to pay, she stressed.
The pair also referred to three of their Westbury neighbours who were experiencing similar struggles in getting relief from the tax.
When contacted BWA General Manager Keithroy Halliday acknowledged that while it started off “quite slowly”, the process of reviewing these applications continues in earnest.
Barbados TODAY also reached out to Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams, who promised to comment on the matter at a later date, after gathering information from the review committee on the number of applications processed thus far.
Last October Chairman of the BWA board Leodeane Worrell warned that the state-owned water company intends to ramp up disconnections against those refusing to pay their bills.
She explained the BWA was merely the conduit for collecting the $1.50 per day tax. This meant that even though customers were paying their bill minus the levy, the BWA was still obligated to take the GSC from the amount paid.
Worrell said the BWA had set up a committee to review applications of people requesting exemptions from the GSC under the guidelines of the Ministry of Finance.