Water sector asks Senate for aid in next relief package

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), two organizations representing municipally-owned utilities, recently asked Senate leaders to include public sector aid in the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation.

Pointing to estimates that drinking water and wastewater systems could lose as much as $30 billion in revenues over the next year due to the pandemic, the letter signed by AMWA, NACWA and the American Public Gas Association, said it is “imperative [that] Congress provide federal assistance to municipal utilities to help offset their revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.” Municipal gas utilities are also estimated to have lost about $140 million since March, but thus far none of the COVID-19 relief measures signed into law have included a direct stream of assistance for public utilities. The letter went on to ask Congress not to exclude public utilities from eligibility in other COVID-19 response programs because of their size or their municipal ownership status and expressed support for aid to help low-income customers maintain essential utility services.

The letter was sent as the debate over COVID-19 response legislation is at a standstill. In May, Democrat leaders in the House of Representatives approved the HEROES Act, its plan for the next round of funding, but Republican Senate leaders have rejected that proposal and may instead develop their own response legislation in the next month.

NACWA White Paper Outlines Funding Strategies for COVID-19 Impact

In early June NACWA published a white paper, Funding and Financing Strategies to Address Coronavirus Impact, that outlines various funding and financing options the federal government could pursue to help municipal clean water utilities recover from the current economic challenges facing the sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The document, which has been reviewed by the Association’s Finance Workgroup, comes as many clean water utilities around the nation are facing unprecedented lost revenue due to the widespread economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The white paper outlines direct federal funding action Congress can take in the short-term, as well as some innovative financing solutions that could provide important financial relief in the medium to long-term.

On the direct federal funding front, the paper notes that while some utilities were on a sound economic footing prior to the pandemic, the impacts of the widespread economic disruption associated with the outbreak are creating serious revenue challenges for many clean water agencies. The white paper also includes several innovative financing strategies that do not require a direct outlay of federal funds that Congress could pursue to assist utilities in recovering from the pandemic’s economic impacts.

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