AMWA calls for broadening of access to BIL additional subsidization funds

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), representing large U.S. drinking water systems, used the opportunity of a Senate subcommittee hearing on implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) last week to reamplify its message that all metropolitan drinking water systems should have access to additionally subsidized Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) dollars delivered through the law.

“As the BIL is implemented, AMWA believes EPA should maximize the opportunities for states and municipalities to spend funds so they deliver the most benefit to low-income households and communities,” the association said in a statement submitted for the record of a hearing of the Senate Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife Subcommittee. AMWA went on to warn that EPA “is not prepared to use the full scope of authority granted by Congress to ensure that additionally subsidized SRF dollars reach low-income communities, no matter where they are.”

As approved by Congress last year, 49 percent of states’ SRF funds delivered through the BIL must be provided to “eligible recipients” in the form of grants or principal forgiveness loans, with the intention that these dollars support projects in low-income communities. But the BIL implementation memorandum released by EPA earlier this year specifies that these additionally subsidized DWSRF funds must be distributed only to state-defined “disadvantaged communities,” a criterion for which many large drinking water systems do not qualify.

“To maximize considerations of equity and the provision of assistance to a wide range of low-income communities and ratepayers, AMWA [encourages] the agency to interpret ‘eligible recipients’ to be any community water system that is eligible to receive SRF aid, and which will use these grants or principal forgiveness loans on projects that will significantly benefit low-income populations in their service area,” AMWA said in its statement.

AMWA said it recently conducted an informal survey of its members on the topic, and most responded that their state does not consider their utility to serve a disadvantaged community, making them ineligible for additionally subsidized DWSRF dollars. However, several utilities responded that their states are considering broadening their definitions of “disadvantaged community” to make it easier for large communities to access the funds – something that EPA’s BIL implementation memorandum encouraged states to do.

Source: AMWA

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