Congress, President Renew Calls for Infrastructure Investment and Water Assistance in COVID-19 Response

(April 3, 2020) – The ink had barely dried on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which passed into law Friday, March 27th, when policymakers turned their focus to the next phase of coronavirus response and recovery this week.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), put forward its goal for a $760 Billion infrastructure framework to help stimulate the economy and provide employment opportunities in the face of rapidly rising unemployment due to far-reaching economic impacts of the current pandemic.  The House framework would include an additional $40 Billion to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program and would establish a federal water and wastewater ratepayer assistance program.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, President Trump called for Congress to pass a $2 Trillion investment in U.S. infrastructure.

Both proposals are aimed at stimulating the economy and putting Americans back to work while also helping to address anticipated increased coronavirus impacts to investment in public works infrastructure projects.

There is, however, significant hesitation among Senate Republicans to moving too quickly on a next stimulus phase when the $2 Trillion phase 3 recovery package was just enacted last week. With unemployment escalating and public concerns continuing to grow, however, it seems increasingly likely a subsequent federal recovery package will be necessary.

Throughout this week, NACWA staff have been closely engaged with Congressional staff from the key committees with jurisdiction over water issues as well as key appropriators, leadership offices, and other interested Congressional offices to elevate water priorities and discuss next steps.

NACWA is making clear that clean water utilities are being directly impacted by the coronavirus and are ensuring vital and uninterrupted service as essential workers/first responders. At the same time, as we have learned from past stimulus efforts, the water sector has the capacity to put people to work quickly and deploy significant infrastructure investments that benefit the economy, the environment and public health.

NACWA is also working with other water sector associations to try and ensure a coordinated sector position and data collection effort as phase four legislative talks increase. 

We are pleased to hear from many Congressional offices that they are engaging directly with utilities as well. Congressional staff strongly urge that clean water agencies and their local communities continue to reach out about the impacts they are facing and how they are responding.  Similarly, NACWA urges all clean water agencies to engage with their Congressional delegations on behalf of stimulus funding for clean water projects. NACWA will be providing members with more information on this engagement effort in the near future.

Please contact Kristina Surfus or Jason Isakovic on NACWA staff with any questions or to discuss further.