Columbus, OH - Yesterday, the Ohio legislature passed a law that includes a strong groundbreaking response to state-level water access during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law would allow the state EPA director to suspend all water shutoffs due to nonpayment during the state of emergency, require restoration of service to any customer whose service was disconnected as a result of nonpayment of fees and charges, and waive all fees for connection or reconnection.
Food & Water Action (FWA) urges Governor Mike DeWine to sign the law and to order Ohio Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Laurie Stevenson, to take immediate action to provide water for all Ohio residents as soon as possible.
In 2018, FWA released the first-ever nationwide assessment of water shutoffs for nonpayment, which revealed Columbus shut off 8,792 households and Cleveland shut off 5,953 households for nonpayment in 2016. Both cities have already suspended new disconnections, and Cleveland has promised to restore service. According to FWA's public tracker, 24 cities in Ohio, including Columbus and Cleveland, have initiated moratoriums on water shutoffs, protecting nearly 5 million people.
Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, cities, municipalities, and states across the country have been halting water shutoffs and restoring water service to ensure all people can wash their hands and quarantine with access to water. Ohio is the first state to pass a law through the legislature that would stop water shutoffs across the state and restore service to all residents.
In response, Mary Grant, Food & Water Action, Water-For-All Campaign Director released the following statement:
“Governor DeWine has a chance here to protect 100% of Ohio from losing access to water during this pandemic. We applaud the work of Freshwater Future and the Alliance for the Great Lakes to include these critical provisions in the state response to this crisis. This is a model for other states to follow. Our elected officials should guarantee access to safe and affordable water for all Americans at all times, and state leaders should prioritize protecting the basic necessities for survival as we confront this pandemic.
“The Ohio legislature has made the right choice, and Governor DeWine should sign the COVID-19 package into law and order Ohio EPA Dir. Stevenson to take immediate action to ensure water for all Ohio residents as soon as possible.”
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.