Water stakeholders try to compel reps for water funding

The Sun-Gazette

59 broad-based organizations send letter to California congressional delegates to consider more funding for water in HEROES act

SACRAMENTO – In the wake of COVID-19 water stakeholders have coalesced to vie for more funding from their representatives. Their latest convergence has been over congress’s HEROES act.

Last week a diverse coalition of 59 broad-based organizations, which collectively represents both California front-line communities as well as more than 450 California water agencies and multiple other water and environmental stakeholders, is urging the California Congressional Delegation to include funding for urgent water infrastructure and water affordability needs as part of the next federal stimulus package titled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act or other pending congressional actions.

In a letter, which was addressed to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and U.S. Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris, the coalition asked for several large funding measures:

$100 billion in new funding over five years for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, with at least 20 percent of the new funding distributed to disadvantaged communities as additional subsidization (grants) rather than loans and eligibility for the new funding for all water systems, regardless of their organizational structure.

$4 billion in immediate funding to the Environmental Protection Agency for grants to the states for a Low Income Households Drinking Water and Wastewater Assistance/Affordability Program to help struggling households pay for essential water and wastewater service.

Emergency funding for affected water utilities, particularly serving disadvantaged or hard-hit communities, to help offset lost revenue, the costs associated with moratoriums on shutoffs, and the essential public health protections being put in place by water utilities.

Shutoff moratorium/safe reconnection provision that ensures every American has access to water in their homes now and through the duration of the COVID-19 crisis and that allows for relief to vulnerable customers for a time afterwards to regain their financial footing while also providing needed fiscal support to water systems.

Taken together, these measures represent meaningful and necessary steps to meet both immediate and long-term drinking water needs for Californians. They will also help boost the economy and protect access to a fundamental tool in fighting the spread of COVID-19: washing your hands.

Since they sent their letter, the HEROES Act passed the House of Representatives 208-199. The bill is a $3 trillion follow-on relief package to the $2.2 trillion package signed into law in March. One Republican crossed party lines to support the bill while 14 Democrats opposed it.

The 1,800-page legislation contains a large number of provisions: nearly $1 trillion for state, local and tribal governments; another round of direct payments to individuals, up to $6,000 per family, including to unauthorized immigrants; $200 billion for hazard pay for essential workers; $75 billion for Coronavirus testing and tracing; increased spending on food stamps; $175 billion in housing support; student loan forgiveness; and a new employee retention tax credit and extension of unemployment benefits.

National reports note that the White House would consider a veto while the Senate is weighing whether to take up the bill in its current form at all.

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