Levin and Michigan House Democrats Introduce Bill to Ensure Clean Water Access During Public Health Emergencies

June 18, 2020
Press Release

Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09) and Michigan House Democrats today introduced legislation to increase access to critical FEMA funding for clean water and basic sanitation services during a public health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic. The Water for Public Health Act expands the eligibility criteria for FEMA assistance during a public health emergency to include efforts by States to provide every individual with access to potable water and basic sanitation.

“We hear all the time that washing our hands is one of the most important things we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and yet thousands of families entered this pandemic without running water -- simply because they couldn’t pay their bill,” Rep. Andy Levin said. “My colleagues and I are working to fix the critical, long-term issue of water affordability and infrastructure – but in the immediate term, we have to rise to the urgent need for water and sanitization to stop the spread of germs. The Stafford Act is supposed to deliver aid in response to disasters and emergencies. What aid is more life-saving in the COVID-19 emergency than access to water and cleaning products? That’s why we’re calling on FEMA to assist states in deploying funding for these critical needs in low-income communities.”

Specifically, the Water for Public Health Act amends Titles IV and V of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to specify that measures taken by States to ensure access to water and sanitation are eligible for FEMA federal assistance during a public health emergency. These measures include but are not limited to:

  1. Reconnection of water utility service, regardless of when such service was discontinued or for what reason
  2. Moratoriums on water utility shutoffs
  3. Installation of mobile water stations
  4. Installation of handwashing facilities
  5. Distribution or delivery of emergency bottled water and personal and home sanitization products

Congressman Levin and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib previously led a letter signed by Reps. Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell, Brenda Lawrence, Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens asking FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor to designate efforts to ensure access to clean water and basic sanitization as eligible for FEMA assistance funding. See the signed copy of that letter here.    

The Water for Public Health Act is endorsed by every Michigan House Democrat: Reps. Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell, Brenda Lawrence, Elissa Slotkin, Haley Stevens and Rashida Tlaib.