Water Shutoff Moratorium Passes Michigan House: Next Stop, Governor Whitmer’s Desk
Lansing, MI — Michigan lawmakers passed legislation through the House today that would prevent water shutoffs until March 31 of next year, offering critical assistance to residents who cannot afford their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. Senate Bill 241, sponsored by Senator Stephanie Chang, passed last week, clearing the way for Governor Gretchen Whitmer to sign the legislation into law, which is expected before year end.
“No one should be expected to live without running water, regardless of how much they earn or which neighborhood they call home, especially during a pandemic,” said Sylvia Orduño with the People’s Water Board Coalition. “Water affordability is a problem that plagues rural Michigan as well as my hometown of Detroit. The legislature has recognized that residents across the state need water to live and protect public health. The legislature did the right thing by preventing water shutoffs,” said Orduño.
A data analysis by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) in collaboration with the People’s Water Board Coalition published last month found water insecurity is a reality statewide, not limited to Michigan’s urban centers, like Detroit and Flint. Nearly 1,000,000 Michigan residents were behind on their water bills and in jeopardy of losing water service in both Republican and Democratic districts, before Detroit issued a water shutoff moratorium in early December.
“Water is essential to life and should be equally available to all, but roughly one in every nine residents in Michigan is struggling to keep the water running in their home. The moratorium on water shutoffs passed today is essential for all Michiganders who need access to clean water and sanitation during the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Cyndi Roper, a senior advocate with NRDC who analyzed the state’s water insecurity data.
For years the People's Water Board Coalition has been working on water affordability measures like income-based water rates based on a household's ability to pay. Senate Bill 240 provides for statewide water affordability measures.
“Consumers have far fewer protections for water access and affordability that exist for gas and electric service, which is ludicrous. The shutoff protections found in Michigan’s legislation should be replicated and expanded by other states facing water insecurity crises as a first step toward ensuring full access to affordable water,” added Orduño.
The People’s Water Board Coalition believes that all people have a human right to clean, accessible, and affordable water and sanitation. PWBC is a coalition of three dozen grassroots groups, NGO’s, faith-based, community-based and labor organizations who have come together to fight for the human right to water.
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.