Gov. Whitmer prevents Michigan water shut offs through end of the year
July 9, 2020
LANSING -- Michigan residents will be safe from water shutoffs through December 31, 2020.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on Wednesday that extended a prior order requiring that water services be reconnected to residences that had their service shut off. The order was issued as a safety measure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Whitmer said in a statement that the extension is "the right thing to do."
"As Michigan families grapple with the impacts of COVID-19 on public health and our economy, our administration is taking proactive steps to ensure that no one has to worry about having access to clean drinking water or losing power durng this unprecedented crisis," she said.
Under the executive order, public water suppliers must restore services to residences that were disconnected due to non-payment or damaged infrastructure unless doing so would create a risk to the public health, for example, cross-contamination. However, the order does not remove the obligation to pay past-due water bills and does not prevent water suppliers from charging their customers.
"Extending the water reconnection order at least through the end of the year is absolutely necessary to ensure that Michigan residents have access to safe, clean, affordable water for drinking and hygiene," said Mary Brady-Enerson, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action in a statement. "Michigan's water affordability problems did not begin with this pandemic, and they won't end without further action to prohibit the practice of shutting off water for nonpayment."
To that end, Whitmer is also calling for Congress to pass the Heroes Act. It would put $1.5 billion toward financial assistance for low income and at-risk customers to help with their water payments.
Detroit has been hit especially hard with water shutoffs. After the reconnection order was initially issued in March, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) created the Restart Grant Program to help cities comply with the order. Under the program, 2,477 Michigan residents had their water turned back on, including more than 1,200 families in Detroit, Whitmer's administration said.
"Black and Brown families in Southeast Michigan have struggled the most because of this virus," said Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit).
"It is my hope this order will allow many more families to have their water restored for sanitation purposes. As we know, hand washing is one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves from COVID-19 and other illnesses."
A new state law, signed by the governor on July 1, sets aside $25 million to reimburse water utility providers that forgive past due utility bills and fees during the coronavirus state of emergency.
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.
Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.
Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while inside enclosed, public spaces.
Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
By Cheyna Roth | [email protected]