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A pair of House Democrats are demanding a national moratorium on water shutoffs during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Shenhung Lin/cc/flickr)

A pair of House Democrats are demanding a national moratorium on water shutoffs during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Shenhung Lin/cc/flickr)

WATCH: Tlaib and Rouda Call for National Moratorium on Water Shutoffs During Pandemic

The Democrats are pressuring the head of the CDC to use his authority to help Americans retain "essential" access to running water.

Jessica Corbett

A pair of Democrats in Congress released a video and sent a letter Monday to Dr. Robert Redfield urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director to use his authority under federal public health law "to issue a nationwide moratorium on drinking water shutoffs, because access to clean water is essential to prevent the spread of the coronavirus."

"Water is especially important during these unprecedented times—people cannot survive this pandemic without water."
—Reps. Harley Rouda and Rashida Tlaib

The lawmakers, Reps. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), are chair and vice chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Environment. Progressive politicians and activists have demanded a national moratorium on utility shutoffs throughout the pandemic, warning that state and local measures aren't enough.

"Water is a human right. We need it to drink, cook our food, and keep our bodies clean," said Rouda and Tlaib in a joint statement. "Water is especially important during these unprecedented times—people cannot survive this pandemic without water. We have heard from activists and people who are currently living in homes without running water, and each person expressed the same urgency to our subcommittee."

Noting that the relief package passed by House Democrats in May endorsed a national moratorium, the pair added that "several states and the House have made clear that water is a human right by prohibiting shutoffs, but the Senate has failed to act. We urge senators and the Trump administration to join bipartisan efforts to save American lives and ensure every person has access to clean running water."

The nearly 11-minute video released by the subcommittee explains that due expired moratoria or failures to enact local measures, over half the country is living without protections from water shutoffs. The video also notes that without action, many Americans will not have their service restored, and while households are losing access to water for falling behind on bills, a recent investigation by Consumer Reports found companies aren't being held to that same standard.


In addition to the subcommittee leaders, the video features remarks from frontline activist Monica Lewis-Patrick, who shares that her veteran mother once said that she sees shutting off water access as "an act of war."

"And so what I see it as is that water is a human right—it is undeniable... and it is a right that I will fight for with my life," says Lewis-Patrick, co-founder and president of We the People of Detroit.

Her organization along with the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch highlighted the video on Twitter:

Food & Water Watch also welcomed Rouda and Tlaib's letter to Redfield, which calls on the CDC director to use his authority under section 361 of the Public Health Services Act to stop shutoffs across the country.

"Just as CDC acted to ensure that Americans are protected from evictions," the letter says, "access to water in each person's home is also essential to preventing the spread of the coronavirus and allow people infected with the virus to isolate without the need to come in contact with other persons in order to bathe or drink water."

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were more than 7.47 million confirmed U.S. Covid-19 cases—including President Donald Trump and several people in government who were around him before his diagnosis—as well as over 210,000 related deaths.

Trump, who returned to the White House late Monday after spending three nights in the hospital, tweeted Tuesday: "I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business."

In the same series of tweets, the president also instructed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to defy the wishes of three-quarters of Americans and fully focus on confirming Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's controversial right-wing nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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