NRWA Advocates for Financial Assistance to Help Rural Utilities Impacted by COVID, Congress Responds
Duncan, Oklahoma – The Senate Bipartisan COVID Relief Bill includes $1 billion in funding to USDA Rural Development to provide financial support to rural water utilities that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many factors have led to reduced revenues necessary to maintain critical services and staff, including shutoff moratoriums, customer job loss, increased costs for personal protective equipment, and reductions in tourism and business activity.
Water and wastewater operators and support staff have been designated as emergency ‘essential personnel’ by the federal government to maintain daily, uninterrupted services of running water and wastewater treatment. We thank Congress for providing this critical support for rural communities so they may continue to protect public health and safety.
The provision incorporates new financing tools introduced in the bipartisan “Emergency Assistance for Rural Water Systems Act,” which has been long supported by NRWA, State Rural Water Associations and our 31,000 nationwide members. This legislation was introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Congressmen David Rouzer (R-NC) and Filemon Vela (D-TX).
“NRWA is grateful for the leadership these champions have shown,” said Matthew Holmes, NRWA Chief Executive Officer. “Rural America owes each of them a debt of gratitude.”
These new, affordable financing and servicing tools include the ability for USDA Rural Development to provide zero and one percent loans and the opportunity to restructure or reduce existing loan debt. These tools will allow Rural Development the flexibility to better meet the needs of underserved, lower income and very small communities impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Senate Bipartisan COVID Relief Bill allocates $500 million of the $1 billion to support federally recognized Indian Tribes, native Alaskan Villages and rural areas designated as Colonias. NRWA supports the prioritization of funds to these severely impacted communities. Many of these systems are in remote, isolated parts of the country and were already facing financial challenges before the pandemic due their small size and lack of economies of scale. These communities are an essential part of the fabric of Rural America.
NRWA applauds these leaders and Congress for their efforts and vision to include funding and new financial tools for rural and small utilities to sustain essential services. We would also like to recognize the utility operators and staff for continuing their mission of providing clean, affordable water and wastewater service every day, during this emergency and into the future.
NRWA is proud to represent these small and rural utility systems and commend them for their active participation to implore Congress to pass this important piece of legislation. To find information on how you can contact your Senator’s office please click here. Thank you for your ongoing support and dedication to the Rural Water industry, especially during this economic and health crisis.