Lawmakers propose banning delinquent water shutoffs during coronavirus shutdown

U.S. Capitol Building

A group of Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives has written to congressional leaders recommending the federal government impose a nationwide moratorium on water service disconnections until the COVID-19 crisis has subsided.

The request came in the form of a March 11 letter sent to House and Senate leaders by 12 House Democrats led by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.). According to the letter and a corresponding press release, the group said that water service disconnections are “unconscionable … during an infectious disease outbreak,” and that “the federal government, working closely with state and local governments, must ensure that we stop water shutoffs and restore water service to any households that have lost service.”

According to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the letter further suggested that “additional federal support” should be made available to community water systems, but does not make a specific call for funding.

Congress did not immediately introduce a bill to halt water service disconnections, but the letter was sent just hours before House Democratic leaders unveiled their initial version of emergency legislation intended to provide relief to families and communities during the COVID-19 outbreak. That bill, which included provisions for food aid assistance, paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, was the starting point for negotiations between House Democrats and the Trump administration in an effort to agree to a comprehensive aid package. As of late last week it was not clear how seriously negotiators were considering adding provisions related to water service disconnections to the final package.

It is not known how a federally mandated service disconnection ban would be implemented, but a number of AMWA members, which include large U.S. drinking water utilities, have announced their own voluntary plans to stop service disconnections for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

Source: AMWA

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