Dems’ HEROES Act includes billions for utility, ratepayer assistance

Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday released the HEROES Act, the latest proposed relief package to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic challenges resulting from it. The proposal includes $1.5 billion in funding for water ratepayer assistance to help struggling households pay their water and sewer service bills.

Also included in the legislation is $375 billion to be distributed to municipalities to cover revenue shortfalls as a result of the pandemic, which may help alleviate the strain on some clean water agencies.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, representing public wastewater systems and combined wastewater-drinking water systems, said it supports the proposal.

“NACWA applauds the House for proposing legislation that better positions public clean water agencies to continue providing essential services to families and households that rely on them during this challenging time, said NACWA CEO Adam Krantz. “Clean water is critical to controlling COVID-19 and this legislation is a clear sign that Congress recognizes the essential nature of the services that clean water utilities provide.”

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According to NACWA, clean water agencies are estimated to incur tens of billions of dollars in revenue losses as a result of the pandemic, particularly as many utilities have issued moratoriums on water shut-offs and restored service to delinquent accounts. At the same time, usage from businesses, industry and other large users like airports and train stations have been drastically reduced.

In late March, the organization said public clean water utilities could face revenue shortages of at least $12.5 billion and urged Congress to include that much in relief for clean water as part of a future stimulus bill. Meanwhile, a report in mid-April suggested public drinking water utilities could see revenue losses in the ballpark of $14 billion from a drop in customer payments.

NACWA said it looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to advance assistance for utilities and ratepayers into law.

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