Today, in response to growing threats from COVID-19, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Detroit officials announced the ‘Coronavirus Water Restart Plan’ to restore water service to all Detroit residents through an assistance program and payment plan.
Food & Water Action (FWA) supports the decision to halt water shutoffs in Detroit, applauds the Detroit People’s Water Board for their years of organizing to make this happen, and calls on the federal government to enact a national moratorium on water shutoffs with immediate service restoration across the country. With Michigan’s presidential primary happening tomorrow, the group also looks to candidates to voice public support of a national moratorium.
The World Health Organization recommends ‘frequent and proper hand hygiene’ as one of the most important prevention measures for COVID-19.
In 2018, FWA released the first-ever nationwide assessment of water shutoffs for nonpayment which revealed an alarming and hidden water affordability crisis across the U.S., by showing 15 million people in the United States experienced water shutoffs in 2016.
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.
Food & Water Action’s Public Water for All Campaign Director Mary Grant issued the following statement:
“The United States has been facing a water affordability crisis for years. Now, threats of the coronavirus are finally making it clear to our elected officials: water shutoffs are not only inhumane but also a public health nightmare.
“In 2016, an estimated 15 million Americans lost water service for failing to pay their bills. Without water, tasks as simple as hand washing become impossible. Handwashing is the first line of defense against COVID-19. Detroit’s plan to halt water shutoffs is long overdue. It should not have taken the coronavirus epidemic. We applaud the People’s Water Board for their years of advocacy, activism and research that led to this decision and support their effort for an income-based water affordability program.
“We call on the federal government to order an immediate national moratorium on water shutoffs with service restoration for every household disconnected for nonpayment. Congress should fully fund our water systems to help guarantee access to safe and affordable water and sanitation for all Americans at all times by passing the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act.
“We also call on every Presidential candidate to support a national water shutoff moratorium and the WATER Act. This crisis demands federal action to ensure every household in this country has access to safe water and can wash their hands. Universal access to clean and affordable water is a public health necessity and should be a national priority.”