COVID-19 Relief Negotiations Remain at Stalemate; NACWA Continues Strong Push for Water Assistance

(August 5, 2020) – Since the Senate Republican majority’s release last week of their proposed next COVID-19 relief package as a counter to the House Democratic majority HEROES Act, which passed the House in May, negotiations on finalizing a next COVID-19 relief/stimulus package have remained at a stalemate.

House and Senate negotiators had hoped to reach a deal by last Friday, July 31, before current enhanced unemployment benefits expired at midnight and Members of Congress were scheduled to leave town until after Labor Day for the August recess. 

Aside from the strong partisan divisions between the House and Senate bills, Senate Republicans continue to struggle internally to come to a legislative consensus which has exacerbated the current stalemate. At this point, it is unclear if and when a consensus will be reached on the next COVID-19 package and what the scope of it will be.

Despite this, NACWA has continued its Congressional engagement on the importance of including the water sector in the next package. In response to direct water ratepayer assistance not being included in the Senate proposal, and the release of a report by the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Democrat minority that highlighted the “need” for a federal moratorium on water shutoffs, NACWA sent a letter this week to Capitol Hill further urging the importance of federal financial assistance for public water utilities and strongly cautioning that no moratoriums on shutoffs are acceptable absent commensurate federal support to cover unpaid local rates.

Specifically, the NACWA letter requests Congress provide at least $4 billion in emergency federal assistance to help address low-income ratepayer needs during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, noting that federal support programs already exist for energy and food assistance that are not linked to an emergency declaration. Furthermore, the letter firmly states NACWA’s opposition to any national moratorium that is not directly tied to the local receipt of federal funding to cover a utility’s financial losses and that any federal moratoriums must be limited to the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As negotiations continue, NACWA urges all members to reach out to their Senators as soon as possible to share their local experiences as it relates to delinquent accounts, suspending water shutoffs, lost commercial revenues, and the resulting financial pressure on utilities. You can feel free to use any or all of NACWA’s letter in your communication.

In the meantime, NACWA continues its near daily engagement with Congressional Leadership and other key Members of Congress on these issues. Please contact NACWA’s legislative team, Kristina Surfus or Jason Isakovic, with any questions or to discuss COVID-19 Congressional actions.