WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., Wednesday announced legislation that would establish new pilot programs to help low-income families afford their rising water bills and ensure local utilities can continue making critical infrastructure upgrades to provide safe drinking water and wastewater services.
“Economic development requires basic infrastructure, including clean drinking water and wastewater services,” Wicker said. “Our bill would encourage utilities to improve the affordability of their services. I look forward to working with Senator Cardin to advance this bill, which has the potential to benefit underserved communities in Mississippi.”
“Clean water means good jobs and better health, throughout Maryland and nationwide. If consumers cannot pay their water bills, then utilities cannot make the needed repairs and upgrades to their drinking water and waste water treatment plants, nor to the pipes and pumps that deliver water throughout their service area,” said Cardin, Ranking Member of the EPW Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “The Federal Government requires these upgrades to our water infrastructure because these upgrades keep people safe, but we then have the responsibility to make sure that our citizens are financially capable of meeting these requirements.
The bipartisan bill, the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2018 (S. 3564), would establish 32 programs nationwide for low-income residents to receive aid in paying their drinking water bills and an equal number of programs designed to assist low-income residents with paying their wastewater utility bills. Both Senator Cardin and Senator Wicker are members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW).
The Cardin-Wicker legislation comes amid skyrocketing water bills, with prices expected to increase by 41 percent by 2020. If that rate holds, nearly one in three American households potentially would not be unable to afford running water. If consumers are unable to pay their water bills, utilities will not have the resources necessary to make critical upgrades to keep drinking and wastewater safe.