DMO To: DMO Leadership team
From: Mae Stevens
Date: April 23, 2020
Re: Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 and America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020
On April 21, 2020, The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee published draft legislation entitled: Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, and America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020.
This memo is to provide you with information on how this bill connects with your work on assistance legislation and on disadvantaged communities in general, and a suggested draft letter for you to submit to the EPW committee.
Note that this memo uses the bipartisan committee-drafted section-by-section to describe the provision in the bill that I recommend DMO take note of.
Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 Section-by-Section
SEC. 6. ASSISTANCE FOR SMALL AND DISADVANTAGED COMMUNITIES.
This section expands the existing Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities program to allow for the use of funds to purchase filters that remove contaminants of concern from public drinking water systems and for providing information regarding proper filtration maintenance and options regarding replacing lead service lines or other sources of lead from water systems and technical assistance. Further, the provision changes the required non-federal cost match for the grant to 10% and allows that 10% to be waived at the discretion of the Administrator. This provision extends the authorization of the program from 2022-2024 at $100 million for each fiscal year.
This section also creates an additional competitive grant program administered by the EPA and distributed to states based on demonstrated high proportions of underserved communities. This grant program is authorized at $50 million for each fiscal year 2021 through 2024.
This section also reauthorizes the existing Drinking Water Infrastructure Risk and Resiliency program from 2021 through 2024 and increases the program from $4 million to $10 million for each fiscal year. This includes a waiveable non-federal share of 10%.
Finally, this section instructs the EPA to create a grant program to provide grants to a utility or nonprofit to voluntarily connect a low-income household to a municipal public drinking water system. This program is authorized at $20 million for each fiscal year 2021 and 2022.
SEC. 10. NEEDS ASSESSMENT FOR NATIONWIDE RURAL AND URBAN LOW- INCOME COMMUNITY WATER ASSISTANCE.
This section requires the Administrator of the EPA, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to study the prevalence of low-income households in the Unites States without affordable public drinking water services. This report must include recommendations to increase access to these services and the associated costs of each recommendation. This section authorizes $5 million to conduct the study.
America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 Section-by-Section
SEC.2017.Small and disadvantaged community analysis.
This section requires to EPA to do an analysis of the historical distribution of funds to low income communities, rural, minority and indigenous peoples under Safe Drinking Water Act and CWA programs. The EPA is also required to analyze new opportunities and methods to improve the distribution of funds under these programs to those same communities.
DRAFT SUGGESTED LETTER TO THE EPW COMMITTEE
April XX, 2020
Senator John Barrasso
Chair, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
410 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Senator Tom Carper
Ranking Member, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
456 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senators Barrasso and Carper,
On behalf of our 6000 elected mayors, city council members, and other municipal leaders who self-identify as Democratic, we write to commend you on your thoughtful and ambitious legislation: Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 and America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. Your support for disadvantaged communities across the country is commendable.
Specifically, we applaud your renewal and expansion of the Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities program, and the funds for filters and lead service line replacement. Nearly 2000 water systems—at least one in every state—have excessive levels of lead contamination in their drinking water. These systems serve a collective 6 million people. While the Committee has done much since the crisis in Flint, MI, the crisis is not over for millions of Americans, and we thank you for the increased investment in addressing these issues.
We also applaud the creation of the additional competitive grant program based on demonstrated high proportions of underserved communities as well as the creation of grants to voluntarily connect low-income households to a municipal public drinking water system. The US Water Alliance estimates that nearly 2 million Americans live without access to drinking water or waste water services. Low-income communities and rural towns disproportionately live with either unsafe water or no connection to municipal water at all. A lack of investment in water infrastructure over the last several decades has exacerbated the problems these communities face. Your continued generous investment in these programs has an outside impact on the communities of your constituents.
However, we encourage you to include more robust support for low income households. The maintenance of continuous residential water access by all is particularly critical at the present time, in order to permit residents to maintain hand washing, home cleaning, and other sanitation measures to assist in dealing with the deadly health impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The need for a subsidy to support long term, sustainable and affordable access to water and sewerage services for the health and safety of your low income constituents will not end after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, providing the committee an excellent opportunity to implement much-needed new policies going forward.
We urge you to create and adequately fund a national water rates subsidy program similar to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Based on the same realities that lead the federal government to recognize the need to support low income families by subsidizing energy, it is time to also provide a robust federal subsidy for the precious resource of clean and safe drinking water. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of providing clean, safe and reliable drinking water, water rates are rising at alarming rates across the country. While there is often a call for municipalities to provide free or subsidized water, this creates disproportionate hardship on the already strained financial resources of lower-than-average income communities, making the federal government the proper entity to fund necessary water subsidies for low income families.
Everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, deserves clean, safe, reliable, and affordable water. The committee has an historic opportunity to provide this live saving resource to every American. We urge you to seize that opportunity.
We stand ready to work with and support you on any and all of these important issues.