More bad news for poor people's access to water

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The news keeps getting worse for poor people in southeast Michigan trying to keep access to water.

That’s the bottom line in a new video and story posted today by Curt Guyette over at the ACLU of Michigan’s Democracy Watch blog.

There’s actually two significant issues Guyette and documentary filmmaker Kate Levy expose.


One is the fact that funding for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s much-touted water assistance programs is quickly drying up.
The Heat and Warmth fund, one of the charities administering money Duggan raised from foundations, is completely empty. The Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, another participant in the program, has been so overwhelmed with calls for help that it has temporarily stopped taking new applications.

That leaves the United Way for Southeastern Michigan as the only charity in a position to provide actual assistance. It has about $950,000 remaining to help people being threatened with water shutoffs.

Based on previous spending, that’s enough to help about 2,000 households. Meanwhile, the city shut of service to nearly 6,000 homes in June alone. Another indication of just how great the need is can be found in the 12,000 homes that were disconnected in the first six months of this year for having “illegally” turned their water back on after previously being disconnected for lack of payment.

As one advocate pointed out, the city is pursuing a “Band-Aid” approach to the problem, and is failing to devise a sustainable approach to the crisis.

Looking ahead, the $4.5 million a year the still-forming Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) – which will be taking over management of the massive water and sewer system serving nearly 4 million people in southeast Michigan, is going to be woefully inadequate.

That admission comes in a draft report the GLWA itself produced.

Referring to the GLWA’s planned Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP), the report – which was obtained by Guyette, warns: “Unfortunately, the scope and structure of these efforts pales (sic) in comparison to the endemic problems induced by persistent poverty in our communities. WRAP will provide support to a select number of families in need. Preliminary estimates indicate that 2,000 to 5,000 households will be provided assistance each year under WRAP.”


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