Congress released a massive stimulus package that did not include direct financial relief for the water sector
Congress released a stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic continues.
The bill included significant funding for a variety of private industries, but direct financial relief for the water sector was not included, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and other industry associations.
“While Congress’s recently passed stimulus package will provide significant help to many families, organizations and businesses in desperate need in the wake of COVID-19, it failed to offer support to one of the most fundamental services that everyday citizens need now more than ever – clean water,” said NACWA CEO Adam Krantz. “The workers who ensure essential water services are environmental first responders and have been working 24/7 throughout this crisis. At a time when proper sanitation and the flow of clean water to every home, hospital and essential industry is more critical than ever before, the decision to not include meaningful support for this sector is shameful.”
The final package focused on four areas advocated by Senate leadership: aid to small businesses; direct cash payments; loans to companies in distressed industries; and money to fund the medical response.
The legislation’s goal is to flood the economy with money, as entire states are on lockdown, businesses are closing, and the number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 are on the rise.
According to Krantz, the public clean water sector is currently projecting a 20% loss of revenue. Utilities around the country have halted water shutoffs for nonpayment and have restored water service to delinquent accounts during this crisis to ensure the public health, reported Water Finance & Management.
NACWA said it conservatively estimates the impact to clean water utilities nationwide of lost revenues due to coronavirus at $12.5 billion, which is a low-end estimate at that. The estimate is based on the historical utility financial data NACWA has on file through its Financial Survey and recent reports from NACWA members on the decrease in usage they are observing in their systems.
“While it is important to support our airlines and cruise industries, it strikes me that Congress should also be ensuring similar funding support through grants and loans to ensure needed maintenance and construction projects will proceed at the Nation’s water utilities,” Krantz said.
The CARES Act (H.R. 748), which Trump signed into law, does not provide direct assistance for water systems. The bill does include some money for states and large communities to address coronavirus-related expenses, which could include the cost of water service, however.