Washington, DC - Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told fellow Republican Senators that he opposes infrastructure spending in the next coronavirus relief bill. This announcement comes as municipal water shutoff moratoriums nationally will soon start to expire, and residents are facing the possibility of losing access to running water while in quarantine. Where shutoffs are not suspended, families are being disconnected especially as unemployment numbers increase and households cannot afford to pay water bills.
Even before the pandemic, Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet found that the state needed $15 billion in water infrastructure improvements to prevent system failures, and the economic downturn has cut utility revenues dramatically. Nationally, utilities estimate COVID-19 costs of more than $27.5 billion.
In 2018, Food & Water Action found that McConnell’s home state, Kentucky, was home to one of the worst water crises in the country in a community called Martin County. Without federal investment in water, residents in Martin County and similar communities across the nation will continue to face unreliable, unaffordable, and unsafe water in the middle of a pandemic that relies on handwashing as a top defense.
In response, Mary Grant, Food & Water Action, Water-For-All Campaign Director said:
“Even before the current pandemic, communities like Martin County, Kentucky illustrated the urgent need for federal reinvestment in America’s water system. Across the country, residents have been facing astronomical water service rates, water outages, and contaminated water for years.
“80 members of Congress and hundreds of advocacy and justice groups have demanded federal action to ensure universal access to running water during this public health crisis. As one of the most powerful people in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell is failing to provide basic water service to his own residents by ignoring these demands.
“COVID-19 has proven the constant outcries about a nationwide water crisis right. McConnell and his henchmen are choosing to deny the federal investment we need in order to protect families from choosing whether to put food on their table or keep their water running. We need national action to protect every single person in this country from inhumane water shutoffs and to finally fix our long-neglected and failing water system.”
Nina McCoy from Martin County Concerned Citizens in Kentucky said:
"Yet again, Mitch McConnell has turned his back on the greatest needs of his own constituents as well as the rest of the country. The water and sewer infrastructure problems of Martin County Kentucky are just the more visible tip of the iceberg of infrastructure problems that plague the poorest communities across this nation. Now, more than ever, it is obvious how important clean water is to the health of the nation."