AWWA offers strong support of permanent low-income water assistance program

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The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has offered its strong support for the proposed Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program Establishment Act. The bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would permanently establish low-income water assistance for families struggling to access affordable drinking water and wastewater services.

AWWA has supported low-income water assistance for years, in collaboration with a coalition of other drinking water and wastewater sector organizations.

Sponsored by U.S. Reps. Eric Sorensen (D-IL), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), and Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program Establishment Act (H.R. 8032) is a companion bill to Senate legislation introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) earlier this year.

Both proposals would permanently authorize the Department of Health and Human Services’ Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), established by Congress in 2020 to promote public health by easing the burden on families struggling to afford their monthly water bills. Since that time, LIHWAP has proven to be a critical lifeline, allowing more than 1.6 million households across 49 states and numerous tribes and territories to maintain water and wastewater services in the face of economic hardship. 

The temporary program expired at the end of 2023, leaving low-income families nationwide at risk of losing access to essential water services. The new legislation would permanently authorize the program and support communities by ensuring ratepayer affordability over time. 

“For two years, LIHWAP has served as a lifeline for customers struggling to keep up with their water bills,” said Tracy Mehan, executive director of the American Water Works Association’s Government Affairs Office. “We are pleased that Reps. Sorensen and Chavez-DeRemer have joined Sen. Padilla in the next phase of moving this key legislation forward. Authorizing a permanent low-income assistance program is an important step towards assuring that all households have access to safe and reliable water service.”

Water and wastewater sector organizations endorsed the Senate version of the LIHWAP Establishment Act in February. AWWA said the new House legislation takes an identical approach to S. 3830 and includes an authorization level of $1.1 billion annually. That is the level of funding provided by Congress for the current program, which is expected to be fully expended by July 2024.

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