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Dingell Recognizes COVID-19’s Disproportional Impact on Environmental Justice Communities

Pandemic Put Magnifying Glass on Access to Clean Drinking Water

Washington, June 9, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change held a hearing on the relationship between frontline communities of color and low-income families and the disproportionate exposures to environmental pollution and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dingell highlighted the need to ensure water affordability protections for households during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CDC, one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to wash one’s hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Prior to this crisis, though, an estimated 15 million people in the United States had experienced a water shutoff, especially in communities with higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and people of color.

“COVID-19 did not create a water crisis, it exacerbated an existing one,” said Dingell. “Access to clean water is a basic human right and is necessary for proper hygiene and safety during a national emergency—especially a pandemic that requires us to stay in our homes. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2016, a nationwide assessment of water shutoffs for non-payment revealed that an estimated 15 million people in the United States experienced a water shutoff, a shocking 1 out of every 20 households.”

Dingell continued, “This has been a particular focus of mine during this crisis and, in April, Rep. Rashida Tlaib and I introduced legislation to prohibit water shutoffs and provide rate payer assistance. As many states now begin the process of phased in re-openings and lifting existing moratoriums on water shutoffs, this bill has become more important than ever because this crisis is not over. COVID-19 still remains a serious threat to public health. We still have no vaccine for COVID-19 and in some state we are seeing cases rising again.”

Dingell, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and more than 60 members of Congress introduced the Emergency Water is a Human Right Act, which would prohibit water shutoffs nationwide and provide financial assistance for low-income households to pay for drinking water and wastewater during the COVID-19 national emergency. The Emergency Water is a Human Right Act was included in the House-passed Heroes Act

Video of the hearing is available here

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