Our federal advocacy currently focuses on closing water access and affordability gaps for the 100 million people living at or below federal poverty levels in the United States. Our Federal Advocacy Workgroup meets biweekly to increase Caucus members’ capacity to effectively engage in federal policy and advocate for safe, affordable, and reliable water for all.

Our efforts include building relationships with decision-makers, providing recommendations on regulation and legislation, uplifting stories and solutions from the frontlines, and hosting Congressional Briefings.

Permanent Low-Income Water Assistance

No household should have to choose between paying for water and other bills. The WECR Caucus advocates both to improve current federal water assistance for low-income households and establish a permanent assistance program. The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) was established at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to provide assistance to low-income households in paying past due bills and rates for drinking water and/or wastewater services. Authorized in March 2021 through the American Rescue Plan Act, this temporary federal program is the first to support low-income water users in an effort to reduce the impact of water shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding for the program is currently set to run out at the end of 2023.

We believe it is important to support LIHWAP as a bridge program until a permanent national low income water assistance program can be established because it supports debt reduction and helps maintain water services for low income populations. At the same time, we are advocating for improvements such as automatic enrollment and better communication and community outreach in order to ensure LIHWAP funding reaches those that need it the most. We are also strategically pushing to close data gaps on low-income needs and for the establishment of a permanent program at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. 

True Water Affordability

Over 2 million people in the United States lack access to water and sanitation systems, and affordable access is an increasing challenge for the 100 million living at or below federal poverty, particularly as aging infrastructure, stricter regulations, and climate change are all driving up the cost of water infrastructure and services. While water bill assistance provides financial support to help cover the cost of water bills when families are struggling to pay, true water affordability ensures that no one is ever cut off from water access because they can’t afford it. The COVID-19 pandemic and widespread moratoriums on water shutoffs brought forth the stark reality of rising water inequities and systems failures. This moment of disruption came with an unprecedented national momentum toward universal water access. The WECR Caucus is responding to this moment by advancing national narratives for the human right to water and supporting local and federal champions advocating for true water affordability.

Equitable Infrastructure Implementation

One of the Caucus’ key priorities is to help to ensure equitable implementation of the water provisions included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act). The $43 billion that will be distributed over the next 5 years as State Revolving Funds (SRFs) is an unprecedented supplement to existing annual SRF funding–in terms of the amount and in designating 49% to go out as grants and forgiveness loans. Our Federal Advocacy Workgroup is working to share information and provide recommendations to federal agencies, where relevant. We are pushing for this unprecedented moment to be a catalyst, shifting the underlying structures and processes to support equity goals well beyond the 5 years of BIL/IIJA funding. In addition, Workgroup members actively participate and coordinate efforts with the WECR Infrastructure Implementation Workgroup, SRF State Advocates Forum and PolicyLink’s SRF work more broadly.