House Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Create Permanent Low-Income Water Assistance Program
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Rep. John Katko (R-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation last week that would establish a permanent low-income water customer assistance program housed at U.S. EPA.
The bill, H.R. 3293, the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2021, builds on legislation supported by Rep. Katko and former Rep. Fudge (D-OH) last Congress to create a program at U.S. EPA to assist low-income households in maintaining access to sewer and water services. NACWA has worked closely with these offices over the years on this bill and applauds their continued commitment to shed light on water affordability and ongoing work to advance this issue in a bipartisan fashion.
This year, building off Congressional funding for water customer assistance for this first time during the pandemic, H.R. 3293 would authorize a permanent (non-pilot) program. This development has helped advance the conversation around how to provide federal water assistance through a reliable, long-term program.
NACWA and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) jointly provided a letter in support of the legislation and issued a press release highlighting how the legislation would support public clean and drinking water agencies’ work in providing safe, reliable water services.
H.R. 3293 was introduced in advance of a legislative hearing held May 25th by the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee. Following the hearing, NACWA anticipates the Committee may release one comprehensive package incorporating provisions from many of the bills under consideration.
NACWA has flagged concerns regarding onerous restrictions on utility collections which are being considered in other legislative proposals and will continue working in support of H.R. 3293 as the Committee continues its work. NACWA will also remain engaged with the U.S. Senate, which recently passed legislation authorizing assistance through U.S. EPA on a pilot basis.
The Association will keep members engaged as this issue continues moving forward in the coming months. Utilities interested in engaging on low-income assistance issues or prioritizing federal water investment overall are encouraged to visit our campaign page at https://www.affordableh2o.org/.
NACWA also continues to closely follow progress on implementing the initial federal funding for water ratepayer assistance that was appropriated early this year as part of pandemic relief legislation and is being administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services. NACWA urges interested utilities to closely follow this progress at the state level. Contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA Managing Director of Government Affairs, to discuss further.