The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani reports:
Utility shutoffs are in the spotlight again, with 113 lawmakers calling for a suspension of all utility shut-offs – water, gas, electricity and internet – to be included in the next Covid-19 stimulus package.
In a letter addressed to House speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and minority leaders Kevin McCarthy and Chuck Schumer, the signatories call for a nationwide moratorium to protect the most vulnerable Americans until the pandemic threat has passed and the country’s economy has stabilized.
It says: “Utility services are especially critical for public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Water service ensures that Americans can handwash and disinfect surfaces necessary to slow and stop the coronavirus outbreak. Electricity is necessary for families to turn on the lights and have refrigerated food to eat. Internet access is essential for many employees to be able to work from home and for children who are out of school to access educational resources. …
“Utility insecurity is felt by low-wealth Americans, rural and tribal communities and people of color. Newly unemployed Americans are facing disconnection because of loss of income. … These are the communities that need congressional protections the most.”
Signatories include several former presidential candidates – Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker – as well as the four congresswomen of color collectively known as “the Squad” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
Today’s letter comes after a similar letter from 830 advocacy groups was sent to Congress on Monday, and a federal bill, the Emergency Water is a Human Right Act, was introduced by congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell last week.
Amid growing public outcry, a growing number of water and energy utilities have suspended shutoffs, with a small proportion agreeing to reconnect services. But millions of Americans are still without water or face the threat of taps being turned off if they can’t keep up with bills. Read more here: