December 23rd, 2020
Governor Whitmer once again displayed leadership amidst the coronavirus pandemic by leading on a bill during lame duck to secure running water for Michigan residents during this crisis before promptly signing it after being approved by the legislature.
SB 241 (now officially Public Act 252 of 2020), sponsored by Senator Stephanie Chang, sets a temporary statewide moratorium effective through March 31, 2021 on water shut-offs due to non-payment and ensured water services are restored to any Michigander currently shut off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to water is essential to human life at any time, but even more so during a public health pandemic when hand-washing and bathing is critical to limiting spread and exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses and bacteria. Until October of 2020, Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-144 required restoration of water service to Michiganders across the state during the state of emergency. However, that EO was invalidated by the Michigan Supreme Court, leaving behind a patchwork of local protections for water access that needed to be resolved legislatively. Thankfully, the City of Detroit in December announced their own citywide moratorium on water shutoffs due to ability to pay. However, water shutoffs remained a statewide problem that affected a number of municipalities, not just Detroit. Michiganders across the state are still experiencing financial hardship that has put their access to basic utility services at risk, and SB 241 offered a temporary solution.
Now is not the time for anyone to be without water, and we’re thankful for both Senator Chang and Governor Whitmer’s leadership on this critical issue. Their ability to not only make this a legislative priority, but to actively negotiate for its passage did not go unnoticed and should be recognized.