Pandemic Relief Bill Includes Water Funding
Recently, the U.S. Congress passed a pandemic relief bill, that contains a number of water utility related provisions. Known as the American Rescue Plan of 2021, the bill includes $500 million to states and tribes to provide assistance to residents for water utility bills and a large sum of cash to the states to use for investments in drinking and wastewater infrastructure, among other things.
Just this March, an association of larger water providers sent a memo to their member utilities and municipalities about starting conversations with decision-makers regarding their need and desire for funding from this relief bill. Specifically, utilities may want to reach out to city managers, mayors, or similar local officials to advocate on behalf of the utility and municipality with the Governor’s office and state agencies for a portion of the funding. Chances are, many utilities in communities with lesser means or a smaller rate base are not receiving this information.
This could put many communities at a disadvantage for funding if conversations and their needs are not being elevated to Governors and the appropriate state agencies, particularly in communities where many residents are already struggling to pay their water bills.
What You Can Do for Your Community
We encourage you and your partners to reach out to your water utilities. Suggest the utility(-ies) talk with their local elected officials about communicating with the Governor and the appropriate state agency about:
How much money is needed to cover residents’ water bills and the utility’s water infrastructure priority issues in your locality, such as lead service line replacement, busted pipes that are leaking water, etc.
Press your utility and local elected officials to request these dollars be distributed based on percentage of poverty, not just looking at communities as a whole, but neighborhoods of poverty within cities that may have more means.
Don’t Wait. There is no clear guidance on when this funding will be disbursed to the states. But with other utilities making their case, now is the time for communities to begin dialogues with the Governor and state agency(-ies).
Specific to Michigan Communities
On March 23rd, 2021, Governor Whitmer’s office held a webinar outlining how $557 millon from the American Rescue Plan of 2021 for water related funding, coupled with other state funding sources, will be allocated in Michigan. The state will be providing the following:
- $55 million in grants to schools for drinking water filters
- $102 million for disadvantaged communities to replace their lead service lines
- $40.5 million for water and wastewater utilities to plan for upgrades, repairs, or replacement and a way to pay for these actions
- $35 million for drinking water infrastructure upgrades
- $25 million for utilities for contamination risk reduction
- $7.5 million for water affordability and planning for water affordability programs
- $235 million for wastewater infrastructure upgrades and increasing green infrastructure
- $20 million for the elimination of sewage discharges during wet weather
- $35 million to upgrade or replace failing home sewage septic systems.
For more information, please contact Kristy Meyer at email@example.com, (231) 348-8200 ext. 7