Lady Freethinker (LFT) has joined more than 600 other environmental, human rights, labor, and utility-justice organizations in calling for a nationwide stop to essential service shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The virus has infected close to 22.8 million people and caused more than 379,000 deaths  in the United States alone since last March, with millions more struggling to survive the financial havoc wreaked by pandemic-related layoffs and furloughs.

The last thing Americans need right now is to worry that their electricity, broadband, or water will be shut off because they can’t pay their bills, the organizations said in a letter delivered to the incoming administration.

The letter — which comes on the heels of an increasing number of water shutoffs, despite spikes in COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths nationwide — notes that Americans need access to utilities to wash their hands, heat their homes, and stay connected to remote school, work, and public health updates.  

A draft executive order included with the letter, if enacted, would immediately institute a federal moratorium on the shutoffs of water, electricity, broadband and other essential utility services for the duration of the pandemic and at least 12 months after.

LFT Founder Nina Jackel said adding her voice to the nationwide call for action aligns with the nonprofit’s vision.

“Lady Freethinker’s mission is to achieve a compassionate world for all animals — including humans,” Jackel said. “Denying access to basic needs like water is cruel and unnecessary in the richest country in the world, especially amid the economic devastation of a global pandemic.”

Other organizations that signed on, from 48 states and the District of Columbia, include the Center for Biodiversity, Food and Water Watch, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The letter notes the country’s communities of color are most often impacted by shutoffs — the same populations that have been disproportionately and hardest hit by the pandemic. 

But more than half of all Americans also are at risk for having some essential utility services shut down due to nonpayment. Only eight states had continued bans on utility shutoffs as of January, leaving an estimated 56% of Americans — or 183 million — at risk of having their water supplies stopped, according to a special report from The Guardian.

The organizations’ request to the incoming administration emphasizes that the lack of state-issued moratoriums, as well as additional Congressional allocations for COVID-19 relief that fall far short of the American public’s needs, make the federal moratorium necessary.