When a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs that was imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic expired, Saginaw city officials decided to resume water shutoffs for families that had unpaid water bills. Those affected included 250 families whose water service was terminated immediately and 750 additional families at risk of having their water shut off. In July 2021 the ACLU of Michigan wrote to city officials on behalf of 19 concerned organizations. The letter pointed out that, given Saginaw’s racial and economic circumstances, these shutoff practices may violate the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act. It also explained that as a practical matter, disconnecting water access in a home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic created imminent health risks, exacerbated housing instability, and could threaten parents’ rights to keep their children in their homes. The letter urged an end to shutoffs, the adoption of a water affordability plan, and an end to civil penalties related to water utility status. In response, the city resumed moratorium on shutoffs. The moratorium ended in July 2022. (ACLU Attorneys Mark P. Fancher and Bonsitu Kitaba-Gaviglio, and legal intern Rihan Issa.)
The Michigan Legislature is in session.