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). It amends the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to establish the first permanent program to assist low-income households in maintaining access to drinking water and wastewater services. Similar to other Federal programs that provide financial relief for heat and energy bills, it will provide grants administered by state regulatory agencies and public utilities. This will also provide more financial certainty for water utilities allowing them to better manage facility and equipment assets and capital expenditures.
Adam Krantz, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, is quoted as saying, “This legislation acknowledges that a gap exists between the costs of providing essential public clean water services and investing in reliable, resilient infrastructure and the ability of households to pay for them. The costs of clean water have grown significantly and while programs exist for helping Americans afford other essentials—food security and home energy—no similar program has been in place for water. We look forward to further work with Congress to help advance this legislation.” Rep. Katko is quoted as saying, “Ensuring access to reliable and clean water sources must be a top priority for our Nation, especially in response to new challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, that was signed into law on December 27, 2020, included $638 million in emergency funding to assist low-income households with water and wastewater bills. This funding, however, was a one-time allotment and not renewable like that proposed in the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2021.