More Members of Congress Support Water Aid

The number of supporters in Congress for utility assistance in the next Covid-19 package continues to grow.

One hundred ten Democratic members of the House and Senate sent a letter today to congressional leaders, requesting financial aid to utilities and the people they serve during the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter asks for emergency funding for utilities — including water, electric, internet, and phone service — and their customers. It requests a moratorium on the disconnection of utility services for nonpayment of bills during the national emergency and for a six-month grace period after the emergency is lifted.

A shutoff moratorium was already mentioned in an April 7 letter that 80 House Democrats signed. Individual states and utilities have issued their own suspensions of shutoffs and late fees. But the House Democrats want blanket coverage.

“For all of us to get through this together we need to have a national policy with clear standards that utilities can follow, and ensure that no family is left behind in the patchwork of policies,” they wrote.

What is new in today’s letter is the stipulation that all late fees and bill payments should be forgiven for “low-wealth families” through the end of the grace period, and that Congress should provide funding for that.

Governors who have ordered a moratorium on water shutoffs during the emergency — Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, for instance — have taken the opposite approach. Many have stated in their orders that even though water will not be turned off, customers are still responsible for paying the bills.

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