NACWA Member Advocacy Needed as Congress Advances COVID-19 Relief Bill; Hill Testimony Next Week
(February 18, 2021) – Last week, House Congressional committees completed work on their respective portions of the next COVID-19 relief package under the budget reconciliation process.
Included in the House package was $500 million in additional funding for the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
While NACWA and the water sector are appreciative of this additional funding that will build upon the $638 million provided by Congress in the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package, it is nowhere near the level of federal assistance needed to help utilities cover the estimated $8.7 billion in revenue losses from households struggling to pay their water and sewer bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Congress is on recess this week, the House is working to merge the respective committee portions into one bill for a full House vote as early as next week and the Senate is beginning work behind the scenes on drafting its version of the COVID-19 reconciliation package. The House and Senate Democratic Majority is still working on a timeline for sending a final bill to the President’s desk by March.
NACWA strongly encourages all of its members to weigh in with their respective Senators and Representatives about the importance of additional and increased low-income water and wastewater ratepayer assistance as Congress works towards finalizing the next COVID-19 relief package.
NACWA has provided a template letter to use when writing to your Members of Congress on this issue.
Other COVID-19 relief funding included by the House last week included:
A new round of $350 billion in state and local funding (NACWA joined onto a coalition letter in support of these funds);
An additional $25 billion for rental assistance, including water utilities; and
$10 billion for homeowner assistance, including water utilities
NACWA and its water sector partners will continue working with Congress to ensure that the next COVID-19 relief package provides the highest funding level possible for additional low-income water and wastewater ratepayer assistance, as well as these other important relief programs that can aid clean water utilities. It is imperative, however, that Members of Congress hear directly from utilities in their states and districts about the negative impacts the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their constituents.
In a related development, NACWA has been invited to testify next week before the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee on the growing infrastructure investment needs of the clean water sector. NACWA Board Member Oluwole “OJ” McFoy, General Manager of the Buffalo Sewer Authority, will testify on behalf of the Association. The hearing will be at 11:00 AM ET on February 23 and interested NACWA members can watch it via the Subcommittee’s website.