Thirteen states and the District of Columbia ordered a statewide or district-wide ban on shutting off water during the coronavirus pandemic. Two other states secured voluntary commitments from all water utilities within their borders not to shut off water. Some states extended the repayment period for overdue bills. Others suspended fees charged for late payment.
Comparing the strengths and weaknesses of these state water policies in a time of crisis is the aim of a report from the Center for Water Security and Cooperation, a research organization that focuses on water affordability and access.
The report finds fault across the board, even for the best of the policies. In sum, the report argues that prohibitions on shutoffs and financial penalties end too soon and do not acknowledge the potentially long-lasting economic vulnerabilities for many households.
“No state has gone far enough to protect households’ access to water during the pandemic, nor have they put in the necessary protections in spite of the financial hardships that are likely to be felt at the conclusion of the moratorium,” the report concludes.
State policies varied widely. Michigan and Wisconsin required utilities to restore water service to homes that had been disconnected both before and during the pandemic. California ordered utilities to reconnect water to homes that had been disconnected after March 4, 2020.
Seven of the 13 states temporarily waived late fees, while six are still allowing utilities to charge for late payment.