Congressional panel approves funding for WIFIA program
A U.S. House-Senate conference committee recently approved spending legislation for the 2015 fiscal year that includes funding to set up the WIFIA program. It must now go before the full House and Senate for votes and then receive the president's signature before it becomes law.
Dec. 11, 2014 -- On Tuesday, Dec. 9, a U.S. House-Senate conference committee approved spending legislation for the 2015 fiscal year that includes funding to set up the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. The legislation must now go before the full House and Senate for votes and then receive President Obama's signature before it becomes law.
The federal government has been operating on a continuing resolution since the 2015 fiscal year began on October 1. That resolution expired today, so Congress is expected to pass another short-term resolution to keep the government operating until this new, more comprehensive bill can be enacted.
While the WIFIA portion of this omnibus bill does not include funding for project loans, it does provide the full $2.2 million Congress authorized earlier this year for the Environmental Protection Agency to set up the WIFIA program.
"We have been hearing on the Hill that Congress believes WIFIA is a great new idea, and in providing this funding to get the program established, Congress has proven that it believes in WIFIA," said American Water Works Association (AWWA) Legislative Director Tommy Holmes. "Next, we will focus on obtaining appropriations so the WIFIA program can issue the actual loans. This will be a key topic at our annual Fly-In this spring."
Other highlights for the water community in the omnibus bill include the following:
- Funding for the drinking water and wastewater state revolving fund (SRF) programs at last year's levels: $907 million for drinking water and $1.45 billion for wastewater (At least 20 percent, but not more than 30 percent, of the funds are to be used for additional loan subsidy techniques, such as principal forgiveness or negative-interest loans. Up to 2 percent is reserved for grants).
- Funding for the Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) grant program (grants to help states administer the Safe Drinking Water Act) at last year's level of $101.9 million.
- A permanent rescinding of $40 million in unobligated balances from the State and Tribal Assistance Grants account (this account includes the SRF and PWSS programs).
- $12.7 million for a competitive grant program for non-profits to provide technical assistance for improved water quality or safe drinking water to rural and urban communities or private well owners.
- $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (the same as last year).
- A withholding of significant funding from the Office of the Administrator and the Office of Congressional Affairs until certain overdue reports are sent to Congress, including one on Drinking Water Treatment Compliance Flexibility.
Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life. For more information, visit www.awwa.org.