In December last year Governor Whitmer signed SB 241 into law. This placed a moratorium on water shutoffs by a public water supply and was a codification of an executive order that was issued by the Governor at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under SB 241 the moratorium on water shutoffs is set to expire on March 31. With the legislature wrapping up their work this week, and beginning a two-week break, the sunset in the bill will take affect and water shutoffs will no longer be prohibited beginning on April 1. At that point, communities will be allowed to resume shutoffs based on their past practices of handling delinquent payment.
As the pandemic continues, access to water will continue to be a topic of discussion at both the state and federal level. Within the American Rescue Plan (ARP) $500M in funding is available for a Water Assistance Program in the form of grants to states and Indian Tribes to assist low-income households, particularly those that pay a high proportion of household income for drinking water and wastewater services, by providing funds to owners or operators of public water systems or treatment works to reduce arrearages of and rates charged to those households for those services. The allocations from the Water Assistance Program will be determined by the percentage of households with income less than or equal to 150% of the Federal poverty line and the percentage of households who spend greater than 30% of their monthly income on housing.
This money is available starting in FY 2020-21 and is available until it is spent. Like many other items within the ARP, treasury guidance will provide more specifics on this program and we expect that information in the next few weeks. If these funds operate in a similar fashion to LIHEAP, the funding will be allocated directly to the State. There does not appear to be a maintenance of effort or State matching requirement. There has not been a specific estimate done by the federal government for Michigan’s share of this funding, but the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates the state will receive about $14.5 million.
As this issue moves forward, we will be sure to keep you apprised of any grant funding opportunities that exist for local municipalities, or so you can encourage customers to take advantage of any funding that may be directly available to them. We will also be closely monitoring proposed changes to state law that may impact a public water supply and working with our internal committees on addressing specific policy changes.
John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0303.