Washington D.C. - Today, the House Democrats released legislation aiming to address the impacts of coronavirus on families, businesses, and communities. Included in the proposal is an allocation of $1.5 billion to support paying water bills for low-income families and a mandate to halt utility shutoffs in recipient states. It also includes $33 million to ensure uninterrupted meat and poultry inspections by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to protect the safety of the U.S. food supply during the coronavirus outbreak.
In response, Food & Water Action Policy Director Mitch Jones said,
“The House Democrats at least got it right when it comes to food and water in the stimulus proposal. This package allocates enough funding to protect low-income families from losing access to water right now, but what happens after the pandemic?
“Our water systems have been underfunded for decades, leaving families and communities with the burden of infrastructure costs and maintenance through higher and higher water bills. We applaud House Democratic leaders for measures to stop water utility disconnections and protect poor and working-class families, but we urge our leaders to remember the dire need for adequate federal funding when it comes to water even after we’ve made it through this pandemic.
“The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act would dedicate adequate federal funding through a progressive tax stream to halt our country’s deepening water affordability crisis and take the burden of infrastructure updates off struggling households, for any future public health crises and beyond.
“This pandemic is also elevating the need for premium food safety standards and practices in our country. We’re glad to see House leadership taking into account that the meat and poultry inspection system is being strained by providing additional resources. There must not be a relaxation of food safety staffing standards to cut corners to accommodate the food industry moving forward.”
Food & Water Action has a live tracker of local and state moratoria on water shutoffs for nonpayment during COVID-19. To date, more than 148 million Americans are protected from disconnections. See here.