The U.S. Should Stop Water Shutoffs During the Covid-19 Pandemic—and Forever
There’s very little clarity about the current pandemic—how long it will last, when a vaccine could arrive—but medical experts all seem to agree that one of the few things we can do to significantly stop the spread of covid-19 is washing our hands frequently. I’ve been washing mine so much that my knuckles are starting to peel.
But not everyone can. In the United States—the richest country in the world—access to water is often contingent upon payment. But water bills, like all bills, will become more difficult to pay as covid-19 wreaks havoc on the economy and bosses lay off thousands of workers. One study estimates 3 million people could lose their jobs by this summer.
“Across the country, people are having to choose between rent, food, medicine, every necessity that costs money—and water,” Jackie Filson, national communications manager at Food and Water Watch, told Earther.
Thankfully, in the past week and a half, 255 U.S. city and state governments have temporarily suspended these disconnections, according to data compiled by Food and Water Watch. These suspensions will ensure that more than 115 Americans will have continued access to water.
Of course, that still means some two-thirds of the nation’s population could lose water.
“To heed calls for hand hygiene during this pandemic, it’s more important than ever for elected officials to finally take action to make sure that every person in the country has access to water, and it’s great that many are but there’s a ways to go,” Filson said. “That’s why we need national action.”
Many are calling for more of these suspensions. On Capitol Hill last week, a dozen members of Congress signed a called for the federal government to institute a national moratorium on water shutoffs. And on Thursday, 575 utility justice, labor, faith, consumer, and environmental organizations, including Food and Water Watch, signed a letter urging state officials and utility regulators to immediately cease all utility shutoffs, including water and electricity.