MEC among groups urging governor to protect, strengthen essential services

Michigan Environmental Council was among the low-income customer and energy efficiency advocates across Michigan who called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday to protect and strengthen the essential services residents need to remain healthy and in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan Energy Efficiency for All coalition urged Governor Whitmer in a letter to address housing, utility, internet, phone service and clean water access concerns during the COVID-19 emergency. 

MEEFA asked for executive action to guarantee Michiganders have the essential utility services and shelter needed to protect themselves and their families while they are kept home under the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order by the state government. The letter urges the governor and the administration to focus heavily on protecting those most vulnerable to disruptions in housing and utility access, including low-income residents, seniors and those who have lost wages and employment during the health emergency. These policies include: 

  • Strong, statewide utility shut-off protections and reconnection policies 
  • Energy efficiency and energy assistance continuity and expansion
  • Safely ensuring access to clean water 
  • Strong eviction and foreclosure protections coupled with critical rental and mortgage payment assistance 
  • Ensuring access to internet and phone service 

“Tens of thousands of Michiganders don’t have access to or are at imminent risk of losing access to the life-saving utility services and shelter they need to protect themselves and their families during the public health emergency,” said Charlotte Jameson, program director for legislative affairs, energy and drinking water for Michigan Environmental Council. “We thank Gov. Whitmer and several Michigan utilities for the actions they have taken to date to end shut-offs and evictions and restore critical services. It is clear, however, that a utility-by-utility approach is not sufficient. We urge Gov. Whitmer to use her executive authority to put in place comprehensive, statewide protections.” 

“Immediate action must be taken to ensure that everyone has a roof over their head and working utilities and water service in order to protect themselves and their families during this public health crisis,” said Alexis Blizman, policy director at Ecology Center.  “Immediate moratoriums on shut-offs and evictions, along with immediate restoration of services, are critical but not enough. Policies must be put in place to protect residents from accruing high arrearages during the crisis that result in mass shutoffs and evictions after the state of emergency is lifted."

"Michigan’s most vulnerable residents must not be left behind during this pandemic,” said Laura Goldberg, Midwest regional director for Natural Resources Defense Council. “At this critical time, all Michiganders should have protection from shutoffs and access to the services we all rely on to stay safe and healthy."

“A safe, affordable home with secure utility service is the foundation of every family’s health,” said Annika Brindel, Midwest director of energy efficiency policy for National Housing Trust. “During and after this crisis, we must ensure that families are able to stay in their homes. That a family could be evicted or foreclosed upon during this crisis is unconscionable. Moratoriums on eviction and foreclosure will prevent homelessness in the short term, while rental payment assistance will ensure housing providers continue to be able to operate properties and house under-resourced families in the medium term.”