Water and sewer utilities are eligible to access a pot of $350 billion in the coronavirus relief package signed into law earlier this month, buoying an underfunded and overlooked sector whose services have become indispensable during the pandemic.
The ability to tap into aid from the state and local coronavirus recovery funds included in the new law could be transformational for a sector shouldering more than $8 billion in debt from customers’ unpaid bills over the past year, advocates said. Even more important than the infusion of federal dollars, however, is Washington’s renewed interest in water affordability and accessibility because of the Covid-19 crisis, they said.
Utilities are hoping to capitalize on that momentum and push for funds for upgrading aging infrastructure as Congress begins work on the next economic package. They also want lawmakers to focus on more affordability programs and resources for low-income ratepayers.
The recovery money “shows me the moment has arrived for water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure,” said Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, chief executive officer of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, which serves 62 communities including Cleveland. “And now we have to continue that conversation.” more