LANSING, Mich. — Coinciding with Human Rights Day, the Michigan Senate today passed a bill introduced by Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) to continue the moratorium on water shutoffs in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Clean drinking water is a basic human right, and I’m glad that the Michigan Senate took action today to protect everyone’s health and safety,” Sen. Chang said. “During this pandemic, access to clean water is more important than ever to ensure that Michiganders in big cities, suburban towns, and small villages can all wash their hands with soap and water. So many Michigan families are still struggling financially and with their health. With the COVID-19 third wave underway, we need to ensure that we are protecting Michigan families’ health and economic security, and after the bill is signed into law, we must have a serious conversation about how to address water affordability in the long-term. I will be eternally grateful to the advocates who have pushed for change for more than a decade – solutions are long overdue.”
Having received strong bipartisan support and anchored on the fact that the United Nations General Assembly declared 10 years ago that access to clean drinking water and sanitation is an essential human right, Senate Bill 241 places in statute Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-144. Along with a water shutoff moratorium until March 31, 2021, the bill requires public water suppliers to make their best efforts to determine which households do not have water service. If a supplier finds that water has been shut off for reasons other than non-payment, they must do everything they can to remedy these conditions and restore water service as soon as possible. Lastly, the bill also requires providers to report data to the state on their restoration efforts.
With support of the Senate Democrats, Gov. Whitmer was able to sign an appropriations bill in July that provided $25 million for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse water utility providers for bill forgiveness during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Data collected earlier this year indicates that over 317,000 Michigan households had arrearages on their water bills, in every corner of the state.