NACWA says funding for federal affordability program “nowhere near” needed levels

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Last week the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee marked up its contribution to the next COVID-19 relief bill last week. Included was an additional $500 million for the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Program administered by Health and Human Services, bringing the potential total amount for low-income water assistance to $1.138 billion when combined with the $638 million appropriated by Congress in the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, representing public wastewater and combined water-wastewater system, said that while the funds will make a significant difference in the lives of millions of Americans who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the additional proposed $500 million simply does not meet the urgent need faced by households struggling to pay water and sewer bills.

NACWA said clean water and drinking water utilities estimate the total need to be $8.7 billion to cover the costs of providing access to clean water and drinking water services to newly financially insecure households.

“On behalf of the public clean water sector, NACWA applauds the effort made by the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee today to deliver an additional $500 million to low-income water customers,” said Nathan Gardner-Andrews, NACWA’s general counsel and chief advocacy officer. “This second tranche of funding illustrates beyond a doubt that Congress recognizes the urgent need to cover the costs of providing clean water services to households that are currently unable to pay – an expensive and complex endeavor that individual utilities are simply unable to cover by themselves.

“However, this additional money comes nowhere near to meeting the financial needs facing millions of Americans right now who are struggling to pay water and sewer bills. If Congress wants to help these vulnerable households and ensure water utilities can continue to provide their essential services, even more money is needed.

“NACWA looks forward to continuing to work with the House E&C Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to enhance this funding and ensure it is promptly distributed to customers in need. Moreover, NACWA will continue working with both the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Biden Administration, to secure additional investments that will ensure affordable water for all Americans.”

Source: NACWA

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