Joint Press Release from Alliance for the Great Lakes, Freshwater Future, and Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund

May 14, 2020 (Columbus, OH) – On Thursday, Representative Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) introduced legislation that will ensure clean, safe, affordable water for everyone in Ohio. 

Nationwide, more than a third of all households will not be able to pay their water bill by the end of 2022 according to a report out of Michigan State University. A report on water and sewer affordability in Ohio found that in nearly 80 percent of Ohio communities, a month of basic water and sewer service requires more than eight hours of labor at minimum wage. The Ohio report found that water costs are disproportionately felt in communities of color which have been redlined and disinvested in for decades and in rural communities with a small rate base.  

“Freshwater Future applauds Representative Crawley for her leadership to ensure everyone has access to clean, safe, and affordable water,” said Kristy Meyer, Associate Director at Freshwater Future. “As water rates and economic inequality rise, many Ohioans are losing access to water, a basic human need. Hard decisions are being made between rent, food, medical care, electricity and water- the necessities for life. Without clean, safe water flowing into homes, people cannot wash their hands and keep good hygiene, leading to public health issues that also impact our economy.” 

In 2016, more than 15 million Americans, or 1 out of every 20 households, had their water shut off due to being unable to pay their water bill. Thousands across the state last year had to make the hard decision between putting food on the table and paying their water bill. When water is cut off to a house, a parent could lose custody of their child due to perceived neglect. Kids going to school with poor hygiene have reported being bullied, which can lead to grades slipping. 

“Families should not have to choose between paying their water and sewer bills and putting food on the table,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes Director of Policy and Strategic Engagement Crystal M.C. Davis. “In a water-rich state located along Lake Erie, it is unacceptable that people around Ohio cannot afford clean, safe drinking water in their homes. The Alliance for the Great Lakes applauds Representative Crawley for introducing legislation to address water affordability in Ohio.” 

“The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how fragile water security is for many Ohioans. As water rates have risen steeply in recent years, vulnerable Ohioans have been affected the most. All Ohioans should have access to clean, safe drinking water regardless of where they live or how much money they make,” said Melanie Houston, Drinking Water Director for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Action Fund. “We thank Representative Crawley for introducing this legislation and look forward to continuing to work with her to ensure clean, safe water is available to all Ohio families.”

The legislation specifically:

  • Bans water shutoffs for nonpayment;
  • Requires public water utilities to create a water affordability program based on available income of the household;
  • Requires public water utilities to develop an emergency water assistance program for people who cannot afford to pay their water bill when they fall on hard times;
  • Provides an opportunity for debt forgiveness for Ohioans who are diligently working to pay down water debt for 2 years; and
  • Allows water utilities to use funds generated from rate-payers to create customer assistance programs. 

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About the Alliance for the Great Lakes: The Alliance for the Great Lakes is a nonpartisan nonprofit working across the region to protect our most precious resource: the fresh, clean and natural waters of the Great Lakes. Learn more at www.greatlakes.org.

About Freshwater Future: Freshwater Future builds a strong and effective environmental community working to protect and restore the waters of the Great Lakes by involving residents in civic decision-making. 

About Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Action Fund: The OEC Action Fund is committed to protecting and enhancing the environment and the health of all Ohio communities. We will continue to fight for Ohio’s access to clean water, healthy air, vibrant public lands and a strong democracy. Learn more at www.theoecactionfund.org/

 

Media Contacts: 

Jennifer Caddick, Alliance for the Great Lakes at jcaddick@greatlakes.org or 312-445-9760 

Kristy Meyer, Freshwater Future at Kristy@FreshwaterFuture.org  or 614-638-8948

Emily Bacha, Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund at ebacha@theoec.org or 216-533-8637