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Thousands Of PWSA Customers Qualify For Financial Assistance, So Why Aren't They Signing Up?

Water flows from a sink faucet.
Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

On today’s program: The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival is bringing Patti LaBelle, Makaya McCraven and a stacked lineup of jazz and funk musicians to town; a PA House bill could expand insurance coverage for treating Lyme disease; local poet and founder of the Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange Michael Wurster publishes his fourth anthology; and PWSA explains how existing programs can help low-income residents pay their water bills.

Annual festival turns Downtown Pittsburgh into a jazz club
(0:00 – 11:46)

The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival returns this week for its ninth year, bringing world renowned musicians and jazz afficionados to town. The festival includes free and ticketed shows Thursday through Sunday on Liberty Avenue and Smithfield Street.

CEO Janis Burley Wilson has curated the signature event of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center since its founding in 2011. She talks with 90.5 WESA's Bob Studebaker about the festival's impact and the jazz legacy in Pittsburgh.

A new bill aims to change how insurance covers Lyme disease
(13:00 – 17:52)

Since 2000, Pennsylvania has had the highest number of Lyme disease cases in the country, and some patients report symptoms months or years after they are initially diagnosed. What happens when insurance can't cover it all? WITF’s Brett Sholtis reports House Bill 629 would cover whatever the doctor prescribes, including long-term antibiotic treatment. 

Pittsburgh poet Michael Wurster publishes fourth collection
(17:54 – 22:44)

For nearly half a century, poet and literary figure Michael Wurster has been writing, teaching and nurturing Pittsburgh’s poetry community through workshops and readings. Now, he's published his fourth poetry collection, and his first on a university press. WESA's Bill O’Driscoll explores how Wurster was instrumental in closing the gap between Pittsburgh’s academic poets, based in university English departments, and self-taught poets like himself.

PWSA offers financial assistance to keep the water on
(22:48 – 39:06)

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority enacted a 14% rate hike earlier this year as part of a three-year plan to raise rates 49% by 2020. For some low-income customers, the higher cost will be difficult if not impossible to afford.

PWSA offers multiple programs designed to help, including a winter shut off moratorium, a bill discount program and a cash assistance program—but officials say many thousands of qualifying customers aren't taking advantage. PWSA board chair Paul Leger is joined by the authority's director of administration Julie Quigley and senior manager of public affairs Will Pickering. 

Customers without Social Security numbers or other paper work are still eligible, as are tenants who pay water bills through a landlord or other property owner. For more information about the bill discount program, PWSA customers can call Dollar Energy Fund at 1-866-762-2348. 

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca, and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
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