NACWA Supports Key Programs in Congressional Approps Process: Sewer Overflow Grants, Workforce and Integrated Planning

(April 30, 2019) – Following two weeks of working in their respective Districts, Members of the House of Representatives and Senate return this week to Washington, DC, with a focus on figuring out what can be accomplished over the next few months until the Fourth of July recess—and before the 2020 campaign season fully dominates the conversation.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Appropriations are a top priority, as Congress faces a September 30 deadline to pass all 12 Federal Appropriations Bills, and to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid defaulting on federal financial obligations.

Unlike in recent years, there is no top-line budget agreement in place to which the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees can draft their spending bills. Further, automatic spending cuts complicate the stakes, as sequestration requires—unless agreement is reached—cuts of $125 billion in FY20, which is approximately 10% of total federal appropriations, compared to FY19.

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill, which funds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior, will likely be released and marked up later this spring in the House and Senate.  NACWA has submitted the Association’s FY20 Funding Priorities to the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee and met with staff from both Chambers and Parties to advance the Association’s funding priorities.

NACWA also worked closely this spring with Congressional leaders to support Congressional Sign-On letters for core clean water programs. Last week, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) sent a bipartisan Member letter requesting full funding for several key programs authorized as part of recent Water Resources Development Act legislation, including the $225 million that NACWA is seeking for the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Municipal Grants Program.  This letter is important as it represents the first major bipartisan effort to fund the overflow program in many years.

A similar bipartisan letter was also developed in the House, led by Reps. Napolitano (D-CA), Moore (D-WI) and Chabot (R-OH). Senate and House Members also sent bipartisan letters to Appropriators urging funding the authorized level ($1 million) for the Water Workforce Innovation Grants program. Having these bipartisan leaders requesting full funding for newly authorized clean water grant programs is an essential step in securing funding for the programs in the final FY20 deal.

NACWA has also worked with Representatives who were closely engaged in passage of the Integrated Planning (IP) legislation during the last congressional session to request that Congress direct funds to help EPA implement the new IP law, and stand up its Office of Municipal Ombudsman. And, to demonstrate strong support for increased funding for the crucial SRFs, a bipartisan letter requesting doubling of SRF funding was led by Rep. Napolitano (D-CA) and Rep. Katko (R-NY) this year, garnering nearly 80 signatures from Congress.

NACWA thanks the commitment of all the Members of Congress who led or signed onto these letters, and for the hundreds of “asks” made in support of these programs by NACWA utility members during Water Week 2019. We urge NACWA Members with local legislators who are among the Senate or House Appropriators to stay engaged with their delegation as the Appropriations process advances.

Also this week, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is soliciting input from Committee Members and outside stakeholders on its priority setting for the remainder of this Congress. NACWA is weighing in on the central role strengthening that the CWSRF and other water funding and financing programs should have in the ongoing infrastructure debate.

NACWA Legislative Affairs Directors Kristina Surfus and Jason Isakovic will be closely monitoring Appropriations and infrastructure developments.  Please contact them to discuss anytime.