Last Friday a new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, titled ‘Emergency Water is A Human Right Act’, called for the prohibition of water shutoffs during the COVID-19 emergency period and the provision of drinking and waste water assistance to households. The new legislation would give states and tribes $1.5 billion to help low-income households pay for their water bills, informs Circle of Blue.
The bill requires states and tribes receiving financial assistance to ensure that no water services are or remain disconnected during the emergency period, so they will have to restore water to households where the service had been disconnected.
Last March, a similar move by the Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer required water utilities in the state to restore clean water to homes where it had been shut off. Likewise, California Governor Gavin Newsom restricted water shutoffs to homes and small businesses.
The proposed bill is the same as a provision that House Democrats had included in their coronavirus aid package in March, but which was not included in the final $2.2 trillion bill approved by President Trump on March 27. The new aspect in this bill is the requirement to reconnect water services. Any outstanding debts will not be cancelled.
The funds will be released using the same procedures as a federal aid program for home energy bills known as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). According to some critics, the administrative process could be a burden for smaller water utilities.