NACWA, Water Sector Partners Keep up Pressure on COVID-19 Relief Funds

(November 20, 2020) – With Congressional leadership continuing to discuss the next phase of COVID-19 relief, NACWA and other water sector advocacy groups sent a letter to Congress this week emphasizing the need for directing federal assistance to households struggling to pay their water bills, the challenges presented by broad water shutoff moratoriums and the need for aid to utilities to recover from the pandemic.

The letter is the latest in NACWA’s ongoing advocacy for COVID-19 assistance for the water sector. NACWA continues to weigh in on ongoing “lame duck” post-election negotiations. However, given the likelihood that Congress will not pass another package into law before the end of 2020, the Association is actively preparing its advocacy going into next year on COVID-19 and infrastructure investment.

In the relief packages passed to date – the most significant of which was the CARES Act passed in March – water has not received direct funding. The CARES Act did provide $150 billion for states, tribes and local governments for COVID-19 expenditures – a significant investment, but still less than the broad $500 billion package still being sought by state and local governments. While CARES Act money flowed directly to large cities and counties, some utilities have been successful in working with their local governments and states to secure funding for eligible expenses such as the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) or wastewater-based COVID-19 surveillance costs.

Importantly, a number of utilities have also secured funds to help with unpaid water bills incurred during the pandemic. Under the current CARES law, funds can only cover costs incurred through December 31, 2020, and communities with unobligated funds remaining appear to be working hard to get them out the door. The experiences of communities with the CARES program will help inform continued advocacy among the water and broader municipal sector as we urge additional municipal relief for COVID-19 costs, lost revenues and the water sector directly. Contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA’s Managing Director of Government Affairs, to discuss further.