DETROIT – Representatives Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Debbie Dingell (MI-06), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-At Large) introduced the Water Access Act, legislation that would direct $500 million to the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) for Fiscal Year 2024.
LIHWAP provides critical funding for low-income households with their water and wastewater bills. This program was essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping households keep their water on and their families safe. It is the first-ever federal water assistance program to help meet unmet water needs across the country by helping low-income households pay for their water and wastewater bills.
“Water is a human right. In the 12th Congressional District, it’s heartbreaking that so many of our families don’t have running water in their homes,” Tlaib said. “No family should ever have to go without access to something as fundamental as water. LIHWAP is a critical program that helps our low-income neighbors pay off their debt and cover their reconnection fees. I am proud to introduce this legislation with Rep. Dingell and Rep. Blunt Rochester to ensure our families have the opportunity to thrive.”
“Across this country, there has been a growing strain on working families to cover the costs of water bills for far too long. This is an issue I’ve worked on as long as I’ve been in Congress, and like with so many other problems, these shortcomings and their consequences became clearer during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dingell said. “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.”
“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,” said Blunt Rochester. “That means allowing our communities to connect to water sources and help them pay down their debt, which is why I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Rep. Dingell.”
Median water rates have risen by approximately 45% in the past decade, putting a strain on low-income households. Access to water is a foundational aspect of our society, and when households suffer economic hardship, we must step in and be available to help them maintain their essential water service. Access to running water is also critical for sanitation and hygiene – something we learned all too well during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, this program was created to help income-eligible households pay outstanding water and wastewater bills, providing up to $1,500 in direct payment assistance toward water and wastewater bills for household accounts in arrears or disconnect status, and/or assistance with reconnection fees when services have been disconnected.
Learn more about the Water Access Act here. View the full bill text here.