Representatives Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Debbie Dingell (MI-06), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-At Large) have presented the Water Access Act, a pivotal piece of legislation aimed at securing $500 million funding for the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) for Fiscal Year 2024.
LIHWAP, a critical federal assistance program, was essential, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, in aiding low-income households to navigate their water and wastewater bills, thus ensuring continued access to these basic needs. It marked a pivotal step towards addressing unmet water needs across the United States.
In a statement underscoring the fundamental importance of water access, Rep. Tlaib declared, “Water is a human right. […] No family should ever have to go without access to something as fundamental as water.” Her advocacy is shaped by the lived experiences of families in the 12th Congressional District who have endured without running water, emphasizing that “LIHWAP is a critical program that helps our low-income neighbors pay off their debt and cover their reconnection fees.”
Rep. Dingell highlighted that water bill strain on working families has been an omnipresent issue. According to her, “Families across this country are still living without running water and millions remain at risk of shutoffs. This legislation acknowledges the reality of families struggling as they try to make ends meet, and provides critical support to help meet those basic needs.” Dingell echoes the realization that the pressures and shortcomings of water accessibility became more evident amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing for rectification through legislation.
Rep. Blunt Rochester spotlighted the quintessential duty of Congress in her statement, asserting, “One of the most fundamental responsibilities of Congress is to ensure that every American can know with certainty that when they open their tap – clean water is coming through it.” She is advocating for aiding communities not just to connect to water sources but to manage their debt related to it.
The median water rates have surged by an staggering 45% in the past decade, an uphill battle for many low-income households. Essential for sanitation and hygiene, as poignantly highlighted during the pandemic, access to water has transcended into a paramount issue that demands comprehensive solutions.
To delve deeper into the mechanics, the program assures help to income-eligible households by enabling them to pay outstanding water and wastewater bills. It has been crafted to furnish up to $1,500 in direct payment assistance towards water and wastewater bills for household accounts that are either in arrears or disconnect status, and/or facilitate assistance with reconnection fees when services have been severed. In light of these, the legislative initiative from Reps. Tlaib, Dingell, and Blunt Rochester signifies a vital stride towards water accessibility and equity, acknowledging and addressing the dire need of many households across the nation.