In response to the coronavirus pandemic, almost 90 cities and states across the country have suspended water shutoffs for residents unable to afford their bills. About 57 million Americans will be protected from losing their water service during this time, The Guardian reports.
And although leaders say this is a step in the right direction, just one in five water departments have agreed to reconnect households currently without running water amid the crisis.
“Suspending water shutoffs is the right thing to do, but reconnecting every household in the country is essential during this emergency in which handwashing is a primary measure to stop the spread,” said Michigan congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who last year co-sponsored legislation to tackle America’s water crisis.
Recently, Mich Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the mayor of Detroit and the head of the city’s water department announced a plan to reconnect water service to households whose water had been shut off because of overdue bills. Detroit residents without water can now pay $25 to restore water service and $25 a month to keep their water running for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak, Circle of Blue reports. After 30 days, residents who have had their water service turned back on will be responsible for payments.
In California, utilities are suspending shut offs and providing financial hardship programs for residents who may have difficulty paying their bills. For example, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission said it will suspend shut-off of power and water service for non-payment of water and sewer bills and waive late payment penalties for residents for the next two months.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said that it will offer “extended payment plans to households experiencing financial hardship during this time.”