AMWA, NACWA requesting $1 billion for federal low-income assistance program

Two prominent water industry associations representing public utility systems are urging the federal government to fund the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) in 2024 and beyond.

Last week, the Association of Metropolitan Agencies (AMWA) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) sent a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education in support of the funding for LIHWAP at $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24). 

Created during the COVID-19 pandemic to help households maintain access to clean water services, the LIHWAP is the first national customer assistance program for water and sewer bills. The program has proved to be an essential lifeline for water utilities during the pandemic and has aided roughly 400,000 households nationwide through its first year, according to AMWA. 

“For more than 40 years, Congress has funded the LIHEAP program to help qualifying low-income families maintain essential household heating and cooling service,” said AMWA CEO Tom Dobbins. “Access to drinking water is just as critical to public health, and water affects every community in the country. We urge Congress to continue funding the LIHWAP program and ensure the water service is available regardless of income level.”

While the program’s funding is available through the end of the 2023 fiscal year, the associations are requesting continued funding for LIHWAP at $1 billion to avoid any disruption as Congress considers the creation of a permanent federal low-income water assistance program. By comparison, a total of $1.38 billion was appropriated in FY21.

On the drinking water side specifically, AMWA requested strong funding for EPA’s drinking water infrastructure programs, including:

  • $3 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund;
  • $100 million for grants to address emerging contaminants like PFAS;
  • $80 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program;
  • $50 million for the Midsize and Large Drinking Water System Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability Program;
  • $100 million for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water grants; and
  • $40 million for the Voluntary School and Child Care Program Lead Testing and Reduction Grant Program.

AMWA also urged appropriators to provide FY24 funding for EPA’s Rural and Low-Income Water Assistance Pilot Program, so the agency may to begin using the newly authorized program to offset the water and wastewater service costs to low-income households.

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