On June 2, 2021, President Biden announced an assistance program to aid low-income water customers in paying their water and wastewater bills. The program, which allocates $1.1 billion in grants, was announced at a White House briefing. Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, described the program as, “A first-of-its-kind water assistance program that will expand access to more affordable water and help low-income households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic pay their water and wastewater bills, avoid shut-offs, and support household water reconnections related to nonpayment.” Distribution of 15 percent of the $1.1 billion program funds will begin immediately, with financial aid made available through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) in a program titled Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (or LIHWAP). You can learn more about this nascent program on the HHS website HERE.
Many in our industry have been calling for a permanent Federal water assistance program, similar to other programs that provide financial relief for heat and energy bills. On May 18, 2021, the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2021 was introduced by Reps. John Katko (R-NY) and Lisa Blunt (D-DE). This program is very similar to what has been proposed by President Biden. A copy of this bill is available HERE. With the Federal share or subsidy for clean water declining to its current low of less than five percent, this aid couldn’t come at a more critical time. Having a steady, predicable revenue source is also more critical now than ever for utilities.