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Environment & Energy Report

Democrats, Nonprofits Urge Congress to Help Keep Water Flowing

April 7, 2020, 7:55 PM

Republican and Democratic congressional leaders were urged Tuesday to include at least $12.5 billion in stimulus funds to help people struggling to pay their water and sewer bills.

Congress is preparing another stimulus package that will include billions of dollars to improve the nation’s aging water and sewer infrastructure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already has indicated her support for legislation to help families who can’t afford to pay their water and sewer bills.

House Democrats and a coalition of environmental, social justice, labor and religious groups wrote separate letters to congressional leaders seeking assistance for local water and wastewater utilities that are losing revenue from suspending water and sewer shutoffs and forgiving water and sewer debts.

“Handwashing is our first line of defense against the spread of COVID-19,” the deadly pandemic spread by coronavirus, Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence (D-Mich.) wrote in a letter on behalf of 80 Democrats.

The same message was repeated in a Food & Water Action-led letter that was signed by 233 environmental, social justice, labor and religious organizations.

Water and sewer utilities need at least $12.5 billion to provide assistance on bills for low-income people, household water and sewer bill debt forgiveness, and moratoriums on water disconnections and service restoration to previously disconnected households.

Food & Water Action is the advocacy arm of Food & Water Watch, which has been tracking the number of cities that are agreeing to not cut off water and sewer services to those who can’t afford to pay. As of Monday, the number of cities and counties has grown to 495, representing 187 million people or more than half the nation’s population, Mary Grant, director of the Food & Water Watch, told Bloomberg Law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Amena H. Saiyid in Washington at asaiyid@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Renee Schoof at rschoof@bloombergenvironment.com

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