Because of health concerns during the Covid-19 outbreak, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered water utilities in the state to restore water to homes where service had been disconnected for overdue bills.
“Due to the vital need to ensure that Michigan residents have access to clean water at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is reasonable and necessary to require the restoration of clean water to residences across the State of Michigan throughout this state of emergency,” according to the executive order.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy will provide $2 million in grant funding to assist utilities with the reconnections, but the order requires local governments to provide 25 percent of the cost. Local governments must also report the number of occupied homes in their area where water has been shut off and what actions they took to identify disconnected homes. The reports are due April 12.
The order does not require utilities to forgive customer debts.
Individual utilities had already announced policies to reconnect water service. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said on March 9 that customers whose water service had been shut off could pay $25 per month for the duration of the outbreak to keep water flowing to their homes. The state agreed to pay the cost for the first month.
As of March 26, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department had reconnected water to 891 homes.
After identifying its first Covid-19 cases on March 10, Michigan now has more than 5,400 cases, half of which are in Wayne County, where Detroit is located.