House Passes $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Package with Robust Clean Water Funding

(July 10, 2020) – Before adjourning for a two-week July 4th state work recess period, the U.S. House last week advanced a comprehensive and massive infrastructure investment package, the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), which includes robust funding for the clean water sector.

The package, which passed along a mostly party-line vote with Democrat support, builds and expands upon the House Democrat’s Infrastructure Framework released earlier this year, including $40 billion over five years for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF).

H.R. 2 bundled together infrastructure investment provisions across several sectors, including clean water, drinking water, transportation, energy, and more. On the clean water side, many of the programs included in the H.R. 2 package were part of the clean water reauthorization package, H.R. 1497, which passed out of Committee last year on a bipartisan basis. NACWA was closely engaged with and supported that bill. However, the H.R. 2 package advanced this week proposes significantly higher funding levels.

Due to the overall cost of H.R. 2 and several other controversial components of the package, House Republicans opposed the bill.  H.R. 2 is considered dead on arrival in the Republican led Senate. However, the strong bipartisan support for H.R. 1497 and the ongoing bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2020 process in the Senate provide a solid legislative path for advancement of key clean water programs and provisions during WRDA conference negotiations this summer and fall.

The robust funding for clean water in H.R. 2 also demonstrates that many Members of Congress are serious about the federal government expanding its funding partnership with municipal water utilities and the communities they serve. In addition to providing $40 billion for the CWSRF, H.R. 2 also provides $2 billion for sewer overflow and stormwater reuse grants, as well as $1 billion in grants for municipalities to carry out watershed, wet weather and resiliency projects. These programs have been top NACWA priorities this Congress.

Also included in the bill was an amendment that would establish a research program within EPA to support ongoing efforts to use wastewater surveillance to track trends and the prevalence of COVID-19. While NACWA was not involved in drafting this amendment, this is an area where NACWA has been strongly involved.

One area of bipartisan support in H.R. 2 was inclusion of a provision that would restore state and local governments’ ability to use advance refunding of municipal bonds, which was a key financial tool and option for POTWs to utilize prior to its prohibition under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This is another area where NACWA has been strongly engaging in and joined with a broad range of organizations to support its inclusion. It is also a concept gaining traction in the Senate.

While H.R. 2 will not advance in its current form, it continues the growing narrative around the need and importance of a comprehensive infrastructure package with clean water as a key component.  NACWA will continue to keep its members updated. In the meantime, please contact Kristina Surfus or Jason Isakovic to discuss further.