In a pivotal development toward realizing AWWA’s vision of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, a US House-Senate conference committee late Tuesday approved spending legislation for the 2015 fiscal year that includes funding to set up the WIFIA program. The legislation now must go before the full House and Senate for votes and then receive the President’s signature before it becomes law.
The federal government has been operating on a continuing resolution since the 2015 fiscal year began October 1. That resolution will expire Thursday, so Congress is expected to pass another, short-term resolution to keep the government operating until this new, more comprehensive bill can be enacted.
While the WIFIA portion of this omnibus bill does not include funding for project loans, it does provide the full $2.2 million Congress authorized earlier this year for the US Environmental Protection Agency to set up the WIFIA program.
“We have been hearing on the Hill that Congress believes WIFIA is a great, new idea, and in providing this funding to get the program established, Congress has proven that it believes in WIFIA,” said AWWA Legislative Director Tommy Holmes. “Next we will focus on obtaining appropriations so the WIFIA program can issue the actual loans. This will be a key topic at our annual Fly-In this spring.”
Other highlights for the water community in the omnibus bill include the following:
- Funding for the drinking water and wastewater SRF programs at last year’s levels…$907 million for drinking water and $1.45 billion for wastewater (At least 20%, but not more than 30% of the funds are to be used for additional loan subsidy techniques, such as principal forgiveness or negative-interest loans. Up to 2% is reserved for grants).
- Funding for the Public Water System Supervision grant program (grants to help states administer the Safe Drinking Water Act) at last year’s level of $101.9 million.
- A permanent rescinding of $40 million in unobligated balances from the State and Tribal Assistance Grants account (this account includes the SRFs and the PWSS programs).
- $12.7 million for a competitive grant program for non-profits to provide technical assistance for improved water quality or safe drinking water to rural and urban communities or private well owners.
- $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (the same as last year).
- A withholding of significant funding from the Office of the Administrator and the Office of Congressional Affairs until certain overdue reports are sent to Congress, including one on Drinking Water Treatment Compliance Flexibility.