Mayor of Detroit Mike Duggan spoke at Wednesday’s event.
Detroit, MI – Muslim charities donated $100,000 this week to help residents of Detroit keep their water on.
The Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC) and Islamic Relief (IR) USA joined together on Wednesday at the United Way office in Detroit in an effort to prevent water shut offs for residents of the city of Detroit. MMCC and IR are the largest Muslim charities within the United States, and together they donated $100,000 towards this cause. They were joined by Ford and GM, which each donated $50,000, and United Way, which donated $100,000.
“This grant was done jointly by IR and MMCC in order to benefit the people in the city of Detroit. It was an act of charity given in the form of water,” said Muzammil Ahmed, Chairperson of MMCC and board member of The Muslim Observer.
The City of Detroit is $18 billion in debt, and there is a total of $81 million in unpaid water bills. People in Detroit are paying higher rates on their water bills than any other city in the country because there are so many people who are not paying, said Alexis Wiley, the Chief of Staff for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
The City of Detroit’s water woes has drawn mockery from around the world. Last November, The Daily Show reporter Jessica Williams interviewed government officials, reporters and activists in Detroit. She found a large portion part of the $81 million in unpaid water is not in fact due to residents neglecting bills. “It turns out the Lions [Ford Field], the Red Wings [Joe Louis Arena] and even the local golf course collectivity owed millions,” said Williams. “[Nearly half of delinquent bills] were from commercial and municipal accounts; and yet the city targeted residents” with punitive measures.
“A lot of people might feel people have water bills, so why don’t they pay them. In fact often times they have paid their bills, but the water department had poor administration and unnecessary fees that were in place until Mayor Duggan took office. Even the Joe Louis Arena was affected by that, even though they were not shut off,” said Ahmed.
MMCC and IR are donating money and time to this cause because, in Ahmed’s words, water is an “unassailable, undeniable human right.” “We follow the lead of the United Way, Ford and GM as major contributors to the Detroit Water Fund and invite everyone – Muslim or not – to join us in this critical effort,” said Ahmed.
The grant will be divided evenly between the Detroit Water Fund in partnership with United Way of Southeastern Michigan and Wayne Metro Community Council, to be used in direct assistance to disadvantaged Detroit families struggling to maintain their water utilities or recover from water damage due to recent floods. “They both do excellent work and we wanted people to be aware of both of these agencies,” said Ahmed.
Dr. Muzammil Ahmed, chairman of MMCC and board member of The Muslim Observer.
Since March of 2014, Detroit’s Water Department has shut off service to homes 26,000 times. Within two days, 85% of those affected made at least partial payment of their bills. A further 60,000 households in Detroit have risked their water being shut off.
After many protests against the water being shut off Mayor Duggan along with the Detroit Water & Sewerage (DWSD) Director Sue McCormick joined a team of community partners to announce a 10-point plan. This plan would allow the DWSD to collect on overdue water bills, and still make it easier for customers to make payments. For those who cannot make regular payments, the plan provides the ability to enter into payment arrangements or even receive financial assistance. Highlights of the plan include waving all fees such as late payment and turn on fees, as well as assistances for low-income families called the Detroit Water Fund. All that is required to enter into this plan is a valid ID.
At Wednesday’s press conference, representatives from each donating organization, along with Mayor Duggan all joined together to show their appreciation to MMCC and IR for their generosity. “This donation is another example of the financial assistance that is available to the Detroit residents that are struggling. DWSD is grateful and proud to work with the Michigan Muslim Community Council and is recognizing the city of Detroit and this organization and it’s charitable contributions,” said a DWSD representative.
This event is one of many put together by MMCC and IR in order to add to the Muslim community’s longstanding commitment to Detroit. Other efforts include 10 years of 100% free medical, mental, and dental healthcare at the HUDA Clinic, daily charity and empowerment through Zaman International and Muslim Family Services. MMCC is an umbrella organization that includes these organizations. “They are our partners, these are some of our excellent partners who day in and day out, are helping the people in Detroit,” Ahmed said.