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Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge Introduces Legislation to Help Low-Income Families Pay Water and Sewer Bills with Members of the Ohio and Michigan Delegations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), introduced H.R. 4542, The Low-Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program Act of 2016 to address dramatic increases in water and wastewater rates. Co-sponsored by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13), Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (OH-3), Congressman John Conyers (MI-13), Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-5), and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), the Act directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a pilot program awarding at least ten federal grants to assist low-income households in maintaining sanitation services.

Infrastructure investments needed to comply with Clean Water Act standards have caused sewer and water rates to increase nationwide.  Locally, in 2011 the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District approved a rate increase of 75 percent in Cuyahoga County over a five-year period.   Sewer rates in the City of Akron (Summit County) increased by 69 percent in 2015 alone, causing financial hardship for many residents. 

“As utility companies work to achieve full compliance with clean water standards, Congress must ensure our nation’s most vulnerable are not priced out of life’s most essential resource.  The Low-Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program Act provides a lifeline for some households struggling with their water and wastewater costs,” said Congresswoman Fudge.

“Lowest income water and sewer rate payers bear a disproportionate and rapidly increasing share of the burden of upgrading water and sewer systems.  This responsible approach eases that burden while supporting the objectives of the Clean Water Act,” said Congresswoman Kaptur.

“In today’s economy, no family or individual should have to worry about paying for their access to water. As some of our communities’ sewer and water bills continue to skyrocket, it is important for us to have policies in place to ensure that we are not leaving our friends and neighbors in need behind. Through no fault of their own, their monthly bills have become so high that they are not able to make ends meet – I am proud to join Rep. Fudge in introducing this important legislation and will work with my Congressional colleagues to ensure that it becomes law,” said Congressman Ryan.

“Rep. Fudge is timely in releasing a bill offering financially-challenged customers assistance in paying their sewer and water bills. Many families throughout Ohio, and the country, are struggling to make ends meet.  It is essential that those who have been chosen to serve our communities use their voices and positions to reduce life’s daily stresses for individuals and families in need.  The City of Akron fully supports Rep. Fudge’s legislation and is committed to continuing to make water quality improvements a priority for the many citizens who rely heavily upon water – the region’s most abundant and valued resource,” said Mayor Daniel Horrigan, City of Akron.

“As a City with public water utility, we know our customers count on a reliable supply of safe drinking water to support jobs and families throughout the region. We have worked hard to make our product as affordable while still making the necessary investments to meet and exceed all water quality standards,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson, City of Cleveland.

“The Sewer District is grateful for Rep. Fudge's leadership in developing and introducing this much-needed legislation. The value of maintaining and updating water and wastewater infrastructure, particularly as it relates to public health, economic vitality and environmental stewardship, cannot be overstated.  The Low-Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program (LISWAP) Act will allow organizations, like the Sewer District, to continue to address water and wastewater infrastructure issues while helping those ratepayers most in need,” said Chief Executive Officer Julius Ciaccia, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

Modeled after the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, LISWAP uses a statutory formula based on income, family size, and availability of resources to determine household eligibility. LISWAP aims to protect American families from undue rate increases while maintaining federal clean water standards.

Read frequently asked questions about the legislation.

Click here to read text of the bill.