Iowa’s cities have scored a decisive victory in a long-running legal battle between urban and rural interests over the delivery of water to undeveloped areas of the state. (Photo courtesy of Des Moines Water Works)
WASHINGTON — A pair of Democrats on the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Monday called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a nationwide moratorium on drinking water shutoffs.
The letter from Reps. Harley Rouda, D-Calif., and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who lead the panel’s environmental subcommittee, urged CDC officials to follow up on the eviction moratorium it issued last month by offering protections to those who are delinquent on their utility bills due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Just as CDC acted to ensure that Americans are protected from evictions, access to water in each person’s home is also essential to preventing the spread of the coronavirus and allow people infected with the virus to isolate without the need to come in contact with other persons in order to bathe or drink water,” Rouda and Tlaib wrote.
While states have issued moratoriums on utility shutoffs, those protections have begun to expire.
In 30 states, moratoriums on gas, electric and water service have expired or were never implemented, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.
The Iowa Utilities Board allowed the utilities it regulates to resume the disconnection of natural gas, electric and water service after July 1, with some additional time for customers with certain health conditions, including if they or a household member has COVID-19.
At least seven other states have moratoriums that will end this month if not extended — Colorado, Indiana, Arkansas, Washington, Vermont, New Mexico, and Connecticut — and more than 32 million people would lose protections if those expire, according to the group.
In a news release about their push for a national moratorium on water shutoffs, Democrats argued that maintaining those protections are critically important given the 7.9% unemployment rate.
The House Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act, which passed that chamber in May and has not been considered in the Senate, included a moratorium on utility shutoffs, barring any entity that receives federal coronavirus relief funds from shutting off service to customers who cannot pay their bills.
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