ACLU fights for Detroit to stop water shutoffs, hopes to extend moratorium

Detroit has new program to help residents avoid water shutoffs

DETROIT – The clock ticking on running water for tens of thousands of Detroiters as the deadling approaches for early pandemic moratorium on water shutoffs coming to an end on New Year’s Eve.

But in a new filing in an already ongoing lawsuit, the Michigan ACLU is asking a judge to hold off on lifting the moratorium.

The City of Detroit has introduced a new program called the Lifeline Plan for Detroiters looking to avoid their water being shut off. The plan allows residents to agree to a preset limit on water usage of 4,500 gallons for a fixed rate. But the ACLU says the plan still needs to be better tested.

“There are questions that are being raised by the consumers themselves about the amount of water that is allowed under the program and whether some of their households will off the bat exceed the amount that’s allowed, and which would push them into a higher payment category than they can afford,” said the ACLU’s attorney on the case Mark Fancher.

Currently, there are roughly 60,000 Detroit households in delinquency on their water bills out of 220,000 residential customers.

“Right now, since the moratorium has been in place DWSD is not collecting approximately $40 million a year,” DWSD Director Gary Brown said Thursday. “When we don’t collect that bad debt, we have to pass it into the rates next year. And you’re simply hurting the very people that you’re trying to help.”

Brown called the Lifeline Program the “most compassionate in the country” starting low-income residents at $18 for their utilities. He said he was confident the judge would rule to lift the moratorium but it does hang in the balance.

“It’s our hope that the community will come to understand that water is a vital necessity, it is qualitatively no different than the need for oxygen, people needed to survive,” Fancher said.

Click here to learn more about the Lifeline plan.

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