NACWA Makes Inroads at HHS on Low Income Water Aid; Continues Affordability Advocacy
(February 10, 2021) – Last week, NACWA staff met with program leads from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) who will be shaping the $638 million low-income water and wastewater ratepayer assistance funding secured in the December FY2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
HHS staff are working to determine how to allocate the funding among states and territories in accordance with the limited directives provided in the legislation, which called for factors based on poverty and rent burden – with no water-specific allocation considerations. HHS will also be developing guidance to states on how to implement their allocations, which they estimated would be provided within 120 days. Given that HHS, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in particular, traditionally works with the energy sector, the call was a good opportunity to help familiarize the Agency with the water sector. NACWA will be providing resources and recommendations to HHS regarding how we believe this program can best reflect the needs and circumstances of the water sector.
Effective implementation of the initial $638 million, and positioning this funding to ultimately become a reliable, permanent funding stream, is a core goal of the Affordable Water, Resilient Communities Campaign that NACWA and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) launched last week. The campaign was timed with efforts on Capitol Hill to pass additional federal COVID-19 relief – which, at press time, seems likely to include additional water ratepayer assistance – and the development of broader infrastructure legislation. NACWA encourages all utilities to review the campaign’s advocacy resources and get engaged.
NACWA continues to connect with Congressional staff, water and municipal stakeholders, and other advocacy groups active in the water affordability and infrastructure space to discuss priorities and concerns. This week, NACWA staff discussed water affordability concerns with environmental advocacy groups engaged on these issues locally such as American Rivers, Freshwater Future, and others..
Contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA Managing Director of Government Affairs, to discuss these issues further anytime.