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Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge Re-Introduces Legislation to Help Families Pay Water and Sewer Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) introduced The Low-Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program Act (LISWAP) to address dramatic increases in water and wastewater rates.  As utility companies and municipalities work to bring our aging infrastructure into compliance with Clean Water Act standards, ratepayers have struggled to keep up with rapidly rising water bills.  To combat this issue, LISWAP directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a pilot program to help families keep their services.
“Infrastructure investments necessary to comply with Clean Water Act standards have caused sewer and water rates to skyrocket nationwide. For far too long, America’s families have been forced to foot the bill, potentially pricing many out of access to clean water,” said Congresswoman Fudge. “The Low-Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program Act eases the burden of these staggering costs and provides struggling families with much-needed relief.”
Families throughout the 11th Congressional District, State of Ohio, and the nation struggle with high sewer and waste water rates. Sewer rates in the City of Akron (Summit County) increased by 69 percent in 2015 alone, causing financial hardship for many residents. And, in 2011 the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District approved a rate increase of 75 percent in Cuyahoga County over a five-year period.   
“As a City with public water utility, we know our customers need a reliable supply of safe drinking water. Making it affordable is essential to their health and quality of life,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson, City of Cleveland.  “We have worked hard to make our product affordable while still making the necessary investments to meet and exceed all water quality standards. Congresswoman Fudge’s Low Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program would provide another vital tool to further assist our customers most in need.”
“I applaud Representative Fudge for introducing a bill to provide financially-challenged customers assistance with paying their sewer and water bills. Communities, like Akron, are tasked with making significant investments in their water and sewer infrastructure, resulting in higher utility costs for residents,” said Mayor Dan Horrigan, City of Akron.  “It is essential that, as elected leaders, we do all we can to assist families struggling to make ends meet. The City of Akron fully supports Rep. Fudge’s proposal as we continue to work for equitable, affordable solutions that safeguard our natural resources and ensure residents have abundant access to clean drinking water.”
“NACWA applauds introduction of this legislation to create a pilot program that will help address the growing water affordability challenge. This challenge is growing as communities face increasing costs of compliance and corrective actions, aging infrastructure, expanding debt service obligations, and, in many urban areas, a declining service area population and industry base, to name but a few. Federal efforts such as this legislation provide an innovative approach to help resolve an affordability challenge that could limit utility efforts to charge the true cost of their services and put our nation’s water infrastructure on a more sustainable path," said Adam Krantz, Chief Executive Officer, The National Association of Clean Water Agencies.
"The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is pleased that Rep. Fudge has reintroduced LISWAP. In a time where infrastructure needs are great and solutions costly, we are hopeful that those in need will now have a national vehicle to assist with their water and sewer bills. NEORSD continues to work toward innovative ways to offset escalating costs; in addition to already offering various affordability programs to address some of the needs of our customers. LISWAP is a great first step toward addressing a real need in our country," said Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, Chief Executive Officer, The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.
If enacted, LISWAP would be administered through at least 10 federal grants to municipalities, utilities, and other entities. The bill uses a statutory formula based on income, family size, and availability of resources to determine household eligibility. LISWAP is co-sponsored by Reps. Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Dan Kildee (MI-5), John Conyers (MI-13), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Bennie Thompson (MS-2), Joyce Beatty (OH-3), Jim McGovern (MA-2), Bobby Rush (IL-1), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC). 

Click here to read frequently asked questions about the legislation.

Click here to read a letter of support from the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Click here to read a letter of support from the Ohio Environmental Council.

Click here to read text of the bill.