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Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib plans to introduce a bill on Friday that would offer forgivable loans to people who fell behind on utility payments during the pandemic.

The measure proposed by the Detroit-area MP would allocate nearly $ 40 billion in federal funds to debt owed on electricity, gas, water and internet bills across the country, although Tlaib said that she had been led to draft the bill by her constituents. .

“I saw with my own eyes a lot of my neighbors who are frontline workers, a lot of my neighbors who didn’t really have access to services that help get their kids online so they can learn online. due to the changes due to COVID, ”she said. “More than 3,000 of my families [in my district] were cut off from access to water.

This is despite a moratorium in Detroit that blocks water cuts until 2022 and a long-standing policy in neighboring Dearborn against cutting water off for those who are behind in their payments. A moratorium on statewide water cuts expired in April, as well as similar bans in several other states.

A study by two non-profit organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the People’s Water Board Coalition, find that 317,000 Michigan households fell behind on water payments in November, leaving up to 800,000 at risk of outages.

Water loss is a concern not only for individual well-being, she said, but also for public safety.

“[We’re] ask people to wash their hands, to be able to stay in their homes, not to go to these audiences to try to stop the spread of this deadly virus, they can’t do this if they don’t have a home that has water, gas and light, ”Tlaib told Michigan Radio.

The measure also includes high-speed internet which it says has been “a lifeline for many families to access services” as well as necessary for distance learning students.

There isn’t much data on power outages across the country, but a study by the Center for Biological Diversity find that if the average outages of just three private companies were multiplied across the country, more than 3 million households could have faced a power outage during the pandemic due, for the most part, to non-payment.

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