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Governor Newsom Issues Moratorium on Water Shutoffs to Homes, Small Businesses
by Dan Bacher
Friday Apr 3rd, 2020 12:50 PM
In a statement, Alexandra Nagy, Food & Water Action California Director, lauded Newsom for making the “common sense decision” to halt water shutoffs in California.

“We’re very pleased that Governor Newsom has made the common-sense decision to halt water shutoffs in the state while we confront this overwhelming public health crisis. He must also ensure that water is restored to every home where it was previously cut off.
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In his press conference on April 2, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs for nonpayment in the midst of the deepening coronavirus public health crisis.

Newsom then signed an executive order that will restrict water shutoffs to homes and small businesses while the state responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This executive order will help people who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring they have water service,” said Governor Newsom. “Water is critical to our very lives, and in this time, it is critically important that it is available for everyone.”

Newsom said the order “protects consumers who may not be able to pay for their water service from shutoffs. Already, over 100 public and private water systems across California have voluntarily suspended water shutoffs for non-payment as a result of COVID-19. Under the order, the State Water Resources Control Board will issue best practices and guidelines on support for the state’s water systems during this time.”

Additionally, Newsom said the executive order will restore water for occupied residences that may have had their water shut off as of March 4, 2020, which is when the Governor proclaimed a state of emergency due to COVID-19.

A copy of the Governor’s executive order can be found here, and the text of the order can be found here.

Clean drinking water and environmental justice advocates praised the Governor for issuing the moratorium. In a statement, Alexandra Nagy, Food & Water Action California Director, lauded Newsom for making the “common sense decision” to halt water shutoffs in California.

“We’re very pleased that Governor Newsom has made the common-sense decision to halt water shutoffs in the state while we confront this overwhelming public health crisis. He must also ensure that water is restored to every home where it was previously cut off. When the first instruction to every Californian is ‘wash your hands often,’ it’s crazy to think that many residents of the state don't have that option in their own homes. Access to clean, safe water is a right that every Californian should have, in times of heath crises and in normal times as well.

"Thanks also to all of the grassroots organizations throughout the state that have been pressing the governor on this issue for many weeks."

Earlier on Thursday, Food & Water Action delivered a letter to Newsom urging swift action to ensure that every state resident has access to clean, affordable water service for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter from Alexandra Nagy stated:

“On behalf of our 172,000 members, we strongly urge you to take swift action to halt all water shutoffs and ensure water access for the California’s residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is resulting in the widespread loss of wages and jobs across the country and will disproportionately cause extreme economic distress for low-income families.

Water is a human right and a basic necessity. Access to safe, affordable water is even more crucial right now during the global pandemic.

We urge you and your administration to act now to:

Order a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs for nonpayment for all public and private systems,

Require immediate restoration of water service to all homes previously disconnected for nonpayment; and

Waive all late fees, penalties, service restoration fees, and water rate increases during the state of emergency

On March 25, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, released an open letter to public water agency board members and management teams calling for no water shutoffs to water ratepayers during the COVID-19 Crisis:

“First, whether you represent a retail water agency, a special interest district that sells water supplies to agencies for municipal and industrial use, or an association of water agencies, we ask you to quickly develop and communicate a water service shutoff moratorium in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Water for handwashing and general household cleaning is essential to stop the spread of the disease and to save lives. With hundreds of thousands of Californians applying for unemployment benefits and thousands facing the reality of increased medical bills, we need public water agencies to step up and help those in financial distress.

Second, we are asking you to place your water shutoff moratorium policy in a visible place on your websites, in your billing statements, and in recordings for your utility phone service. A quick survey has found that many water districts and city utility departments around the state have not handled this simple communication effectively, even when they have such a policy in place. An example of an agency that has communicated at no-shut-offs policy, reasonably well is East Bay Municipal Utility District. We hope every water district handles the creation and communication of such a policy as well as EBMUD.”
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