Gov. Gretchen Whitmer calls for water reconnection, establishes fund to help communities

A faucet
A faucet (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took steps to ensure at-risk households have access to clean water for hand washing and sanitation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

UPDATE, March 28, 8 p.m.: Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases total 4,658; Death toll rises to 111

A $2-million Water Restart Grant Program through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) will help communities comply with the order. Grants will be provided to high-risk areas.

“This is a critical step both for the health of families living without a reliable water source, and for slowing the spread of the coronavirus,” said Whitmer. “We continue to work to provide all Michiganders – regardless of their geography or income level – the tools they need to keep themselves and their communities protected.”

The order requires public water suppliers to immediately identify residences in their service area that do not currently have water service and to make best efforts to restore service to homes where the service has been disconnected due to non-payment or damaged infrastructure.

The order also includes reporting and accountability requirements.

The order is effective for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. It does not absolve anyone from responsibility for past-due bills.

Requirements for the grants will include the following:

  • Communities must provide a preliminary spending plan, including the estimated number of homes to be reconnected and estimated average cost per home, prior to the grant being initiated.
  • If lead lines are being replaced as part of the reconnection, the entire line must be replaced.
  • EGLE will reimburse up to $5,000 for reconnection, line replacement, and restoration per home. Exceptions to the cap can be requested for homes needing more extensive work. Exceptions must be authorized by EGLE.
  • The community must assure that the plumbers conduct appropriate flushing and provide communication to residents on the importance of flushing and use of filters if needed.
  • A 25 percent local match is required.
  • Grant funds will be provided on a reimbursement basis upon receipt of appropriate supporting documentation.

Anyone who believes they might have coronavirus should follow the CDC guidelines. Michigan.gov has a list of resources available to those concerned about COVID-19.

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