Congressional Panel Approves Funds for WIFIA

In a pivotal development toward realizing the vision of the?Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act,?a U.S. House-Senate conference committee on Dec. 9, approved spending legislation for the 2015 fiscal year that includes funding to set up the WIFIA program. The legislation now must go before the full House and Senate for votes and then receive the President?s signature before it becomes law.
Meanwhile, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion?spending package?that is headed to the White House for President Obama’s expected signature. The bill would fund most federal agencies through the rest of fiscal year 2015, and hold key construction programs at or near their 2014 levels.

The huge bill, which the Senate approved 56-40 on Dec. 13 during an unusual late-night Saturday session, is mostly an omnibus measure to keep all agencies operating, including their construction programs, through Sept. 30, 2015.

While the WIFIA portion of the spending bill does not include funding for project loans, it does provide the full $2.2 million Congress authorized earlier this year for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set up the WIFIA program.
?We have been hearing on the Hill that Congress believes WIFIA is a great, new idea, and in providing this funding to get the program established, Congress has proven that it believes in WIFIA,? said AWWA Legislative Director Tommy Holmes. ?Next we will focus on obtaining appropriations so the WIFIA program can issue the actual loans. This will be a key topic at our annual Fly-In this spring.?
Other highlights for the water community in the omnibus bill include the following:

  • Funding for the drinking water and wastewater SRF programs at last year?s levels?.$907 million for drinking water and $1.45 billion for wastewater (At least 20 percent, but not more than 30 percent of the funds are to be used for additional loan subsidy techniques, such as principal forgiveness or negative-interest loans. Up to 2 percent is reserved for grants).
  • Funding for the Public Water System Supervision grant program (grants to help states administer the Safe Drinking Water Act) at last year?s level of $101.9 million.
  • A permanent rescinding of $40 million in unobligated balances from the State and Tribal Assistance Grants account (this account includes the SRFs and the PWSS programs).
  • $12.7 million for a competitive grant program for non-profits to provide technical assistance for improved water quality or safe drinking water to rural and urban communities or private well owners.
  • $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (the same as last year).
  • A withholding of significant funding from the Office of the Administrator and the Office of Congressional Affairs until certain overdue reports are sent to Congress, including one on Drinking Water Treatment Compliance Flexibility.

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