Although city officials appear to be resisting the idea, 25 organizations, under the umbrella group the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, have written to Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D), urging him to order his administration to expand water bill relief during the COVID-19 crisis.
Specifically, the coalition wants the city to refrain from sending out water and sewer bills on all residential and small business accounts for six months, as well as suspend the Account Management, Infrastructure, Stormwater and Bay Restoration fees that are added to the bills. The letter is signed by labor unions, environmental organizations and progressive groups, among others.
“Baltimoreans need water bill relief now more than ever. Baltimore’s workers are facing unprecedented economic suffering,” said Rianna Eckel, senior Maryland organizer with Food & Water Action. “More than 11,000 Baltimoreans have filed for unemployment in the last month. It’s time for Mayor Young to stand up for water justice during this crisis.”
The letter echoes the demands of eight City Councilmembers, led by Councilwoman Shannon Sneed (D), who sent a letter to Young late last week with similar demands.
The city has pledged not to shut off water for customers who do not pay their bills, but a city official told WBAL this week that the administration will not suspend billing for half a year because the city would be unable to afford to pay its water utility workers to operate the system.
Two weeks ago, the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition sent a letter to Mayor Young and the City Council, asking for them to take additional measures to ensure all Baltimoreans have access to safe, affordable water during this pandemic. Councilwoman Sneed’s proposal takes water bill relief a step further, by entirely eliminating water bills for 180 days.
With the release of the new sign-on letter, issued the following statement:
We encourage him to support a 180-day moratorium on water billing, and join an earnest conversation with the Council and advocacy leaders who are urgently calling for action.”