As we reflect on the assiduous journey of the Civil Rights movement under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we remind ourselves of the hard work and sacrifice required to ensure equity and equality are infused into every area of our work.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
The Portland Water Bureau reflects on this question often and we ask ourselves what can be done to ensure the best possible service to every customer we serve.
Over the years, the Water Bureau has worked tirelessly to self-assess, ask uncomfortable questions, and re-evaluate ways to create a more equitable institution.
Some of these improvements include:
An Enhanced Financial Assistance Program
For more than twenty years, the Portland Water Bureau has been one of the few utilities in the nation to offer a low-income financial assistance program.
People who receive a bill from the Portland Water Bureau, and meet income guidelines, can apply to receive financial assistance which is designed to help ease the cost of paying your regular sewer, stormwater, and water bills. Enrollment provides customers with access to:
- A discount on every bill. We’ve expanded eligibility criteria and added extra help for households with lower incomes.
- A crisis voucher, should you find yourself in an unexpected emergency. We’ve recently increased the maximum crisis voucher amount to $500, available once every 12 months.
The menu of financial assistance options are the result of close collaboration between the Water Bureau and its community partners.
Bureau Equity Committee Works to Implement Racial Equity Plan
Angie is an Administrative Specialist in the bureau’s Maintenance and Construction division. She also serves as the President of the Water Bureau’s Equity Committee and Vice President and founding member of the Diverse and Empowered Employees of Portland (DEEP), an employee-driven organization offering training, education, and peer support.
Under Angie’s leadership, the bureau’s Equity Committee has worked tirelessly towards the implementation of the Citywide Racial Equity Plan. The plan outlines goals for better communication with customers; increasing the tools for external communications; finding more ways for customers to benefit from bureau; and increasing opportunities for the bureau to hire, promote, and retain a diverse workforce. It also includes specific steps and programs to educate bureau staff about equity, provide translation and other services, and develop online tools.
Hiring an Equity Manager
This position will serve as a resource for the bureau's program and project managers to create a workplace where equity becomes part of everyday decisions and is embedded in bureau operations.
The Equity Manager will lead the bureau in proactively implementing equitable policies, practices, and actions, as well as help influence attitudes within the bureau that will produce equitable authority, access, opportunities, treatment impacts, and outcomes for bureau workforce and customers.
“All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Learn more about the City’s commitment to equity at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/oehr/68111.