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Dingell, Tlaib, Blunt Rochester Introduce Water Debt Relief Legislation

Bill to establish emergency relief program to help customers retain public water service

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) introduced legislation to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish and implement a residential emergency relief program for public water systems. This bill, which will receive a hearing next week, would provide robust funding to public water systems, allowing them to forgive any debt incurred by eligible residential customers since the start to the COVID-19 pandemic so that those customers struggling with water debt can retain access to water service.

“No one should have to live without safe and clean access to water – this is a fundamental human right,” said Rep. Dingell. “This legislation is an important step in supporting families amidst the pandemic and ensuring they have access to essential needs without worrying about the bills piling up.”

“Water is a human right and we cannot allow anyone to live without it,” said Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. “It is long overdue for our country to take bold action to get to the root causes of water shutoffs and the affordability crisis. I appreciate Congresswomen Dingell and Blunt Rochester for their partnership and commitment on this critical issue of ensuring people have access to clean, safe, and affordable water.”

“Ensuring that our constituents have clean, safe, and reliable access to water should be a top priority in Congress,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “The Water Debt Relief Act of 2021 will help ensure that customers who have accrued debt throughout the pandemic are able to make payments and help ensure they don’t have disruptions to their water service. I’m proud to introduce this bill along with my colleagues, Reps. Dingell and Tlaib and look forward to continuing to fight for clean water access across the country.”

The Water Debt Relief Act of 2021 would authorize $4 billion in funding for emergency water debt relief for any eligible customers that have accrued debt since March 1, 2020. To receive funds under this program, a public water system must agree to:

  • Use the funds to forgive all arrearages and fees relating to nonpayment or arrearages incurred by eligible residential customers or by a consistent percentage;
  • Take no action that negatively affects the credit score of an eligible residential customer, or pursue any type of collection action against such eligible residential customer, during the 5-year period that begins on the date on which the public water system receives such funds; and
  • Not disconnect or interrupt the service of any eligible residential customer as a result of non-payment or arrearages for a 5-year period.

The full text of the bill is available here.

Dingell and Tlaib have led on water access in the past, urging for a federal response to water shutoffs during the pandemic last year.


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