October 07, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that would provide rural communities under significant financial strain due to the coronavirus pandemic emergency assistance to repair, modernize and renovate failing water infrastructure. The Emergency Support for Rural Water Systems Act would provide $1 billion in emergency grants, low- and zero-interest loans and loan forgiveness for struggling small and rural water and wastewater systems across the nation.
“Water and wastewater management systems are key to maintaining healthy communities, but many small systems in rural areas are currently facing severe financial hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic through no fault of their own,” said Senator King. “Maine is one of the most rural states in the nation, and that’s why I’m cosponsoring this bill to help rural water and wastewater systems continue their work, upgrade their infrastructure, and ensure residents in rural areas can maintain the water quality they deserve.”
"When the COVID-19 pandemic brought daily life to a screeching halt the water and wastewater utilities of Maine didn’t miss a beat in providing critical service to their communities,” said Kirsten Hebert, Executive Director of the Maine Rural Water Association. “Many of these utilities’ costs ballooned while utility payments fell due to the financial hardships our neighbors faced. This legislation would help make water and wastewater utilities whole again and better enable them to continue providing the excellent public health services on which our communities rely."
Small rural water and wastewater systems are facing expected losses of at least $3.6 billion this year. According the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), several of Maine’s small systems in the RCAP network are struggling with maintaining their systems, working with compliance regulations, and facing improvement delays and limitations due to financial difficulties. As the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, it is estimated 30 percent of systems on a national level and 13 percent of Maine systems in the RCAP network cannot last more than six months under current financial conditions. The Emergency Support for Rural Water Systems Act would allow rural communities to make necessary improvements and repairs to critical water infrastructure and ensure residents of these rural communities continue to have access to clean drinking water and wastewater treatment services.