The U.S. House of Representatives passed the latest round of COVID-19 stimulus legislation this past Friday, May 15th, signaling the start of the next phase of negotiations over additional federal relief to state and local governments. The House package was developed by the Democratic majority and passed largely along party lines.
In conjunction with these developments, NACWA also spearheaded a water sector letter to Congress outlining the key elements the sector would like to see in the next round of stimulus relief.
Attention now shifts to the U.S. Senate following the House action, where Senate Republicans have called for a pause on additional COVID-19 response until June at the earliest in the hope that key pandemic metrics improve and that the reopening of the economy reduces the need for more federal actions. Meanwhile, Democrats and some Republicans continue to advocate for decisive action to help states and local governments mitigate lost revenues as a result of the pandemic.
Discussions for a next phase of COVID-19 response continue to focus on immediate relief rather than longer term priorities to grow the economy such as infrastructure investment. For drinking water and clean water, potential items for consideration include aid to utilities to help mitigate lost revenues, assistance to utilities to support continued services to households that cannot afford to pay, and provision of hazard pay for essential workers.
NACWA and its water sector partners are working closely with Congress to ensure that direct assistance for water and wastewater utilities is included in future legislation. NACWA is also advocating for other forms of municipal assistance, including that provisions related to ensuring water service access for households unable to pay – which have been proposed in tandem with restrictions on services shutoffs and collections – are workable to the utilities that would need to implement them.
As the debate around COVID-19 stimulus legislation continues, NACWA led the effort to author the sector-wide letter to Congressional leadership underscoring the broad water sector support for financial relief and additional Congressional attention to water. The letter provides an update on sector asks in light of the past few weeks of Congressional negotiations.
The letter has been sent to all key Congressional leadership offices, committees of jurisdiction, and every individual Congressional office. However, NACWA continues to urge all utilities to be in touch with your Congressional delegation regarding these issues and priorities for your utility. Members are encouraged to use the sector letter in your Congressional outreach.
Please contact NACWA’s legislative team, Kristina Surfus or Jason Isakovic, with any questions or to discuss COVID-19 Congressional actions.