BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) Wednesday announced legislation he has introduced with Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) that would establish new pilot programs to assist low-income families afford their rising water bills. The bipartisan bill, the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2018 (S. 3564), would establish 32 programs nationwide for low-income residents to receive aid in paying their drinking water bills, and an equal number (32) of programs designed to assist low income residents with paying their wastewater utility bills. Both Senator Cardin and Senator Wicker are members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW).
“Clean water means good jobs and better health, throughout Maryland and nationwide. If consumers cannot pay their water bills, then utilities cannot make the needed repairs and upgrades to their drinking water and waste water treatment plants, nor to the pipes and pumps that deliver water throughout their service area,” said Senator Cardin, Ranking Member of the EPW Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “The Federal Government requires these upgrades to our water infrastructure because these upgrades keep people safe, but we then have the responsibility to make sure that our citizens are financially capable of meeting these requirements.
“Economic development requires basic infrastructure, including clean drinking water and wastewater services,” Senator Wicker said. “Our bill would encourage utilities to improve the affordability of their services. I look forward to working with Senator Cardin to advance this bill, which has the potential to benefit underserved communities in Mississippi.”
“Clean water is a basic necessity all Americans should be able to access, regardless of income or location,” said Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11). “Through their monthly bill, American families have been forced to bear the cost of our crumbling infrastructure. As a result, millions of households are in danger of not being able to afford safe running water. I applaud Senator Cardin and Senator Wicker for introducing the bipartisan LIWCAP Act of 2018, the companion bill to my Low-Income Sewer and Water Assistance Program (LISWAP) Act, and look forward to working with them to provide much needed relief for the people we serve.”
The Cardin-Wicker and Fudge legislation come amid skyrocketing water bills, with prices expected to increase 41 percent by 2020 nationally, largely due to the need to cover the costs of replacing the country’s aging water infrastructure. Nearly 41 million families – one in three American households – potentially will be unable to afford running water by 2020. If consumers are unable to pay their water bills, utilities will not have the resources necessary to make critical upgrades to keep drinking and wastewater safe.
Senator Cardin was in Baltimore Wednesday to announce the bill introduction with Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, as well as the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service and Pro Bono Resources Center of Maryland. The legislation has been endorsed by dozens of poverty, labor and environmental advocates, as well as water utility organizations across the country.