NACWA COVID-19 Congressional Advocacy

Since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, NACWA has been working with our clean water agency members and our partner organizations across the water and municipal sector to urge Congress to act to provide federal relief to utilities and assistance to households unable to pay their water bills. NACWA’s ongoing advocacy encompasses direct funding for utilities for lost revenues and COVID-19-related expenses, assistance to households unable to pay their water bills, support for essential employers and workers, stabilizing and improving municipal financing tools, and engaging with the utility perspective in the conversation around water shutoffs.

With the pandemic persisting far beyond initial expectations, Congress has continued to negotiate the terms of another round of major COVID-19 relief, with many twists and turns over the summer and fall. As of late October 2020, differences between Congress and the White House appeared irreconcilable until after the election. NACWA remains engaged with Congressional staff in the meantime as is preparing for further action on the next round of “relief” or “recovery” in late 2020 or early 2021.

NACWA believes Congress needs to recognize and respond to the tireless efforts of clean water agencies to protect public health and prevent greater spread of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic. To date, a number of public clean water agencies have benefitted from CARES Act funds made available to their local communities however, this funding was not available to all utilities nor can it be used – per Congressional directive – for lost revenues. To date, no direct aid has been provided for the water sector.  

NACWA urges all public utilities to communicate with Congress and share their experience with fellow utilities and their federal representatives during this challenging time. Your continued advocacy is essential to keeping the sector’s needs heard at a time of unprecedented concern and advocacy, with nearly every facet of American life and our economy impacted.

Below is a key list of advocacy resources, which NACWA will keep updated over time. To discuss COVID-19 advocacy contact Kristina Surfus, Jason Isakovic or anyone on the NACWA team.

Congressional Advocacy

  • NACWA Template Letter - It is critical that all NACWA members contact their Members of Congress to let them know how the pandemic is impacting your specific utility and what the federal government can do to help.  NACWA has developed a template letter to assist in this outreach.

  • November 16, 2020 – NACWA Joins Water Sector in Urging COVID-19 Relief during post-election Lame Duck Congressional Period. All utilities are urged to share the message with their Congressional delegation.

  • August 3, 2020 - As Congressional and public interest around both water shutoffs and ratepayer assistance grows, NACWA sent another letter emphasizing how maintaining access to water services for all means providing federal funding for utilities that are already working to maintain access, but severely squeezed by declining rates and revenues.  

  • July 20, 2020 -  As deliberations on the next COVID-19 relief bill kicked off in late July, NACWA sent another letter to Senate leadership reiterating the need for direct clean water utility and ratepayer assistance in the next package.

  • July 15, 2020 - NACWA sent out an Advocacy Alert to members highlighting limits to diversion of public clean water utility funds for other programs

  • June 10, 2020 - NACWA and AMWA join with public gas sector to urge Congress to provide Municipal Utility Relief.

  • May 20, 2020 - NACWA joins with Municipal Government Officials to Urge Municipal Relief.

  • May 14, 2020 - NACWA Sends Sector Letter Highlighting Water Sector Priorities

  • April 2020 – COVID-19 Financial Impacts on the Water Sector - Clean and drinking water sector estimates of the financial impacts of COVID-19.

  • March 27, 2020 -  NACWA and the broader water sector joined together in a formal request to Congress to aid water and wastewater utilities in overcoming the challenges posed by coronavirus.

  •  March 12, 2020 - NACWA joins with municipal finance sector in a formal request to Congress urging financial tools to help municipal entities respond to COVID-19: restoring advance refunding of tax-exempt bonds; increasing access to capital for small borrowers; and restoring and expanding the use of direct-pay bonds. 

Related Resources

  • July 15, 2020 - NACWA releases memo on diversion of utility funds

  • June 29, 2020 - NACWA Publishes Utility Considerations Document on Surveilling Wastewater for COVID-19  - There is a growing interest to quantify the magnitude of infected individuals within a given community and state and local officials are looking to public wastewater utilities to sample and analyze raw influent for indications of genetic material. This document highlights a variety of considerations for public clean water utilities across the country that are already doing wastewater-based epidemiological (WBE) surveillance for COVID-19 or contemplating doing so in the future.
  • June 3, 2020 - NACWA Financing/Funding White Paper - This white paper outlines various funding and financing options the federal government could pursue to help municipal clean water utilities recover from the current economic challenges facing the sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • May 20, 2020 - Legal & Regulatory Webinar on Considerations for Clean Water Utilities During COVID-19 - NACWA gathered a panel of experts to discuss permitting and enforcement issues clean water utilities may be facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • April 2, 2020 - COVID-19 Webinar – NACWA hosted a webinar with over 1000 attendees to discuss how clean water agencies are responding to the pandemic and engage in a question and answer session. Top utility executives from around the country shared how they are responding to the outbreak in areas such as Continuity of Operations Plans (COOPs), Emergency Response Plans, HR and staffing issues, operations issues, losses in revenue, and other challenges being presented by the virus.