LANSING, Mich. — On Wednesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended an order that extended protections for Michigan residents who have had water services shut off through Dec. 31, 2020.
The governor outlined priorities to move Michigan toward water affordability and called on federal government to provide additional water assistance.
“From day one, my administration has been focused on building a stronger Michigan by investing in people, their families, their pocketbooks and the infrastructure they rely on,” Whitmer said in a press release. “As Michigan families grapple with the impacts of COVID-19 on public health and our economy, our administration is taking proactive steps to ensure that no one has to worry about having access to clean drinking water or losing power during this unprecedented crisis."
Whitmer said extending these protections is the "right thing to do" and that she would remain committed to working with legislature and the federal government to development long-term policy solutions in making water affordable for all Michiganders.
Whitmer signed the initial order on water protections back in late back. Afterwards, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) worked to create a Restart Grant Program to help cities comply and pay for the reconnection program, starting with a $500,000 grant to the City of Detroit.
Under the program, 2,477 Michiganders have had their water restored during the COVID-19 pandemic, including more than 1,200 families in partnership with the City of Detroit, according to the press release.
Last week, Whitmer secured the largest investment in water and energy assistance in Michigan history by signing the bipartisan supplemental bill, SB 690, into law.
The new law includes $25 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse water utility providers for providing bill forgiveness for past due utility bills and fees incurred by residential water customers during the COVID-19 state of emergency. The legislation also provides a 25% rebate on total water bills for eligible customers while funding lasts.
Moving forward, Whitmer is requesting the Legislature pass legislation requiring local water utilities to report information to the State of Michigan to ensure transparency around rates.
The governor is also working with the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice to review policy recommendations centered on water affordability.
Whitmer also called on Congress to pass the Heroes Act, which would provide $1.5 billion in financial assistance to low income and other adversely affected consumers to assist with payments for drinking water and wastewater expenses.
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