Saturday, June 28, 2014

In Letters, Conyers Enlists President Obama, HHS Secretary & Detroit Water and Sewage Dept. Director to Stop Water Shutoffs & Protect Detroiters

(DETROIT) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) sent three letters - to President Obama, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and Sue McCormick, Director and Chief Executive Office of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department - requesting immediate federal action and local relief for the water crisis impacting thousands of Detroiters. Copies of the three letters are attached. After the letters were transmitted, Representative Conyers issued the following statement:

U.S. representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Since March, water service for up to 3,000 Detroit customers per week has been cut off due to an overzealous and misguided approach to cost-cutting by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. As water rates have skyrocketed 119 percent over the past decade, upwards of 90,000 largely impoverished households are currently in arrears and in danger of termination. Regardless of the rationale for these cutoffs, the human consequences are unacceptable and unsustainable. The failure to reinstate water service means unsanitary conditions, malnutrition and disease for babies, the sick, and the elderly,” said Conyers.

“The time for action is now. Throughout the past week I have worked with local residents, state and federal officials to resolve this crisis; today I am taking this issue to the highest levels – by sending letters to President Obama, HHS Secretary Burwell, and Detroit Water and Sewage Department Director McCormick – to stop the shutoffs and protect Detroiters. Specifically, I wrote urging the following actions be taken immediately:

Ø  Calling on President Obama to make available for relief some of the $200 million still available for Michigan from theHardest Hit Fund - a reserve made available for relief from impacts of the Great Recession
Ø  Requesting that HHS Secretary Burwell formally designate the water crisis a public health emergency eligible for direct federal relief
Ø  Urging an immediate end to the shutoffs by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department

“In the 21st Century - in the wealthiest nation on earth - no one should ever go without safe, clean water. These steps are just the beginning, as we work determinedly to ensure that this crisis is resolved and never repeated.”

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch added: “We applaud Representative Conyers for taking action to demand that water service is restored to all Detroit residents. When 45 percent of the city struggles to pay for water in their home, it is clear that the problems go far beyond delinquent payments. It’s indicative of broader, systemic issues resulting from decades of bad public policy that have culminated in profits before people. Governor Snyder should act to ensure that all residents have their water restored--access to safe, clean, affordable water is a human right.”

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