Dear NACWA Member,
I am excited to report that, early this morning, Congress included $638 million in assistance for low-income water and wastewater ratepayers as part of the massive Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations and COVID-19 relief bill that is expected to be approved by both the House and Senate later today. This is an important win for the sector and is the result of tireless advocacy work by many NACWA members around the country, NACWA staff, and collaborating sector stakeholders.
The full text of the bill can be found here – scroll to page 1104, line 11 of the PDF document for the relevant section on the low-income affordability funding. Here is a brief summary of the key provisions:
- The funds will flow through the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the states and then as grants directly to water and wastewater utilities.
- There do not appear to be any onerous restrictions on utilities for the use of the funds, including NO requirements for utilities to enact water shutoff moratoriums as a condition of using the funds. NACWA is scouring the bill to ensure language restricting shutoffs or debt collections does not appear elsewhere, but it appears use of these funds will NOT be contingent on establishing/maintaining moratoriums which is a significant change to previous versions of this low-income funding.
- The water sector will need to work closely with HHS to stand up this program, determine eligibility verification and distribution details and get the money out the door to utilities as quickly as possible. There are still significant details and questions to address in terms of implementing this program. NACWA will begin work with its water sector partners and HHS on addressing these issues as soon as possible. More details will be forthcoming in early January.
I am also pleased to report a number of other helpful provisions to the clean water sector in this legislation:
- The $25 billion included in the bill for COVID-19 rental assistance (page 2255 of the bill PDF) specifically allows for these funds to be used to pay utility bill costs and utility bill arrearages.
- The deadline for spending previously appropriated CARES Act funding is extended through December 2021, providing significantly more time from the original December 2020 deadline.
- The water workforce grants program has been funded at $3 million for FY21, up from $1 million in FY20.
- The CSO, stormwater and wet weather grants program has been funded at $40 million for FY21, up from $28 million in FY20.
- Language supporting further funding for EPA’s ongoing activities related to integrated planning (IP).
- Language encouraging the CDC to leverage existing partnerships and infrastructure when building capacity in wastewater surveillance.
NACWA will be providing additional details on these programs in future Alerts and Updates.
NACWA thanks all of it members and all of its water sector partners – especially AMWA, WEF and AWWA – for their collaborative advocacy efforts to secure these important wins for the entire sector. What a great way to end 2020!
Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season, Adam.
Adam Krantz | CEO
NACWA |1130 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1050 l Washington, DC 20036
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