In its first 2021 Federal Water Policy Update, released in late January, the Water Foundation outlined recent federal policy updates and advocacy highlights that can impact developments in water management. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- Late last year, Congress passed and the president signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which includes a $900 million COVID-19 relief bill and $1.4 billion in federal annual appropriations. The bill’s water provisions include: $638 million for low-income assistance programs to help people pay their water and sewer bills, $25 billion in rental assistance funding, which can also be used for utility assistance; and approval of the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act.
- On the Senate side, in late December, incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) announced new additions to the Economic Justice Act. The Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus helped inform several aspects of the updated bill, including: 1) $400 million for sewer overflow and stormwater reuse municipal grants; 2) $667 million for a Clean Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability program that provides grants for publicly owned treatment works; 3) reauthorization of Clean Water State Revolving Funds at $3 billion for FY 2021-2023; 4) reauthorization of the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds at $3 billion for FY 2021 and 2022, and $4 billion for FY 2023; 5) additional technical assistance and grants for emergencies affecting public water systems; 6) expansion of EPA’s Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities program with $300 million authorized for each fiscal year through FY 2023; and 7) $4.5 billion for comprehensive lead reduction projects and lead line replacement.
- In early January, Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) celebrated the launch of Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E, a national outdoor equity initiative, and committed to introducing legislation soon for a national initiative that “transforms the face of the great outdoors.”
- The new president announced a $1.9 trillion package – the America’s Rescue Plan – which includes $440 billion in relief to state, local, Tribal governments, and businesses, as well as $5 billion to cover energy and water costs and debt through programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).