McEachin pushes inclusion of water shut-off prohibition in future COVID-19 stimulus
Congressman A. Donald McEachin is requesting that any future COVID-19 stimulus legislation considered include a prohibition on water shutoffs as a condition for county governments to receive federal funding.
McEachin is also calling for an immediate restoration of water service to households previously disconnected for non-payment.
“Water is a basic necessity, and handwashing is the first line of defense against the coronavirus. As Virginians abide by the commonwealth-wide stay-at-home order to combat the spread of COVID-19, any action to restrict water access makes fighting the pandemic much more difficult,” McEachin said. “During this time of social distancing and economic distress, instead of shutting off people’s access to water, we must ensure that every single person, family, and community is guaranteed clean, safe, and affordable water. Municipalities that look to receive federal funding in forthcoming stimulus packages should not place our households and communities at-risk with this moral and logical non-starter.”
Public health guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to the pandemic cite hand hygiene, including thorough and frequent handwashing, and disinfecting surfaces as necessary and effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Without access to water, people cannot follow these simple – yet crucial – recommendations.
Almost 90 cities and states across the U.S. have suspended water shutoffs for residents unable to afford their bills, but as state and local governments navigate the public health crisis, residents in many utility markets have been left without protections from discretionary essential utility disconnections.
“Enforcing utility shutoffs will only further jeopardize American’s health, leaving individuals more susceptible to the coronavirus and seriously impacting our efforts to contain it,” McEachin wrote in the letter. “As the pandemic causes widespread job and wage losses across the country, I applaud the utilities that have already taken voluntary steps to prevent disconnections and restore previously disconnected households, as well as the states that have issued orders to keep utility services connected. While these critically important steps will help protect families and communities, our current public health crisis demands greater action, particularly as water shutoffs disproportionately impact cities with higher percentages of people of color and higher rates of poverty and unemployment.”
“We can prevent water shutoffs by ensuring that federal funding for state and local governments includes a requirement that no household or individual experiences a disconnection or interruption in service in order to receive federal funding,” McEachin’s letter continued. “No individual should have to choose between paying the water bill and purchasing essential items, and the forthcoming stimulus provides an important opportunity to guarantee universal water access and provide the resources necessary to make this possible.”