Dec 21, 2009

Jobs Bill Adds $2 Billion for Water/Wastewater SRFs

Redirects funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program into infrastructure projects

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $150 billion jobs bill that would provide $1 billion for the drinking water state revolving loan fund (SRF) program and $1 billion for the wastewater SRF program, according to a release issued by the American Water Works Assn. (AWWA).

HR2847 redirects funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program into infrastructure projects, as well as education services, public employee retention and the extension of unemployment benefits.

These SRF funds would not be subject to state matching cost-share requirements as in the typical annual appropriations legislation; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be able to reallocate funds from one state to another if projects are not under contract for construction within eight months of enactment.

House leaders had originally hoped to attach the jobs provisions to an appropriations bill that would be voted on before the Congress recesses this month, but Senate objections derailed that plan.

It is unlikely that the Senate will deal with the issue until early in 2010, after it finishes action on health care reform. Some Congressional leaders have expressed a hope that the jobs measure could be signed into law by the time of the president’s State of the Union address in late January.

Water infrastructure is only a small part of the jobs bill. The original proposal also included $37 billion for transportation infrastructure, $27 billion to prevent public sector employees from being laid off, $4 billion for school renovations, $2 billion for energy projects, $41 billion for extension of unemployment and health insurance benefits, and $23.5 billion for an extension of federal support for state Medicaid programs.

“It may be a small amount of funding compared to national water infrastructure needs, but it is good to see that Congress still has the issue of water infrastructure in its sights,” said Tom Curtis, AWWA deputy executive director for government affairs.

Other features of the SRF provisions jobs bill are similar to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Nearly 30 associations have joined together in a letter to House and Senate leaders urging the elimination of any "Buy American" provision in the jobs bill.

"New, more restrictive Buy American provisions, such as those in included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will significantly delay" projects and put fewer Americans back to work, the letter said.