House Passes American Rescue Plan Act with $500 Million in Water Assistance as Attention Turns to Senate
(March 3, 2021) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan Act late last week. This legislation is intended to deliver additional COVID-19 relief, including $500 million in new funding for low-income water utility customer assistance. This funding for water assistance comes in addition to an initial $638 million provided in the December 2020 FY21 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Securing additional funding to help utilities manage growing arrears in the face of the pandemic has been a top priority of the joint NACWA/AMWA Affordable Water, Resilient Communities campaign. NACWA and AMWA issued a press release applauding the additional $500M in water ratepayer assistance in the U.S. House’s legislation and urging this funding be signed into law.
Attention now turns to the U.S. Senate, which is developing parallel legislation it hopes to pass and conference with the U.S. House before March 14th – the date when key unemployment programs are set to expire. NACWA expects the final Senate package will also include at least $500M for water ratepayers, and the Association continues to advocate for a higher funding amount given the significant need facing the clean water sector.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to disperse the initial tranche of $638 million in low-income water assistance. A key component of getting this money out the door is HHS developing an allocation formula for how much assistance each state will get, along with guidance for the states on how to distribute the funds to utilities.
HHS recently released an Action Transmittal to officially notify states that this emergency water assistance will be implemented using the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) infrastructure to the extent possible. States are directed to identify a designated representative by March 8th and will eventually be required to submit plans for their water funding. Further guidance from HHS will be forthcoming to the states, and NACWA is engaging with HHS to provide input for the guidance.