Conference Committee approves $3.5 billion--30% to be given out as grants
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the committee in charge of combining the House and Senate Interior Appropriations bill has included a provision that will provide a billion dollars in grants--not loans--to financially strapped communities across the country to repair and replace aging water and sewer infrastructure, according to a release issued by Schumer's office.
The funding will prevent communities from having to levy significant tax and rate increases to repair crumbling infrastructure. The original Senate bill required the funds to be distributed entirely as loans. Last month, Schumer introduced an amendment to the Senate Interior Appropriations Bill that would require 30% of the funding to be given out as grants. After the amendment was blocked, Schumer, in a personal letter, urged the conference committee combining the House and Senate versions of the Interior Appropriations bills to include the 30% provision in the final bill. Schumer was joined by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Udall (D-Col.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
The $3.5 billion in water and sewer funding will go to fund the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. No less than 30 percent of the funds will be made available as grants instead of loans, according to the release.
“Water and sewer improvements are the number one concern that I hear from mayors and supervisors as I travel around the state,” Schumer said. “These leaders want to improve their infrastructure, but, in many cases, the cost is simply too great for a small municipal budget. The federal government has stepped up to the plate to help localities break ground on many of these backlogged projects to maintain and upgrade the local water infrastructure and sewer system. Making these investments now will create jobs, ensure long-term economic competitiveness and provide clean drinking water to residents in New York State and across the country.”
Counties across New York State and the country are grappling with aging water and sewer infrastructure that threaten the environment and public health of residents, the release said. Currently there is a backlog of infrastructure projects in need of federal funding, according to Schumer. Without a direct infusion of funds, many of these critical projects could fall by the wayside, accelerating the deterioration of water and sewer systems throughout local communities.