In 2018, the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) published findings from a study that assessed the metrics and criteria used to determine principal forgiveness eligibility in the state revolving funds (SRFs) in EPA Region 4. To complete a more comprehensive analysis, the EFC conducted interviews with program managers/directors and reviewed intended use plans in EPA Regions 9 and 10. The methodology used in this study is the same used for Region 4.
Similar to Region 4, all drinking water SRFs in Regions 9 and 10 use median household income as a metric to determine principal forgiveness eligibility. After median household income, water rates are the most frequently used metric. Other common metrics amongst some states in both regions include population, rate of unemployment, and debt. Metrics used by at least one state are poverty level, designated colonia areas, project type, operation and maintenance expense, and consolidation. For clean water, the most frequently used metrics are median household income, population, and unemployment rates. Continue reading
Calling all North Carolina water and wastewater systems who are considering merging/regionalization or other state funding agencies that want to promote regionalization. The North Carolina Merger/Regionalization Feasibility Grant offers water and wastewater systems an opportunity to conduct a study to evaluate the merging of two or more systems. This program emerged from Session Law 2015-241 to help water and wastewater utilities explore pathways that can improve their finances and overall operating efficiency. Continue reading
Updates for Navigating Legal Pathways to Fund Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs
In 2017, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill led a team of experts in summarizing legal barriers and opportunities to establish customer assistance programs using rate revenue, resulting in Navigating Legal Pathways to Fund Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs. Below is a brief summary of noteworthy changes that have taken place since that report was published in July 2017.
As water and wastewater prices continue to increase, due to a variety of factors, more utilities may find the need to establish assistance programs for some of their customers. In light of this and due to the passing and amending of new/old legislation, the EFC periodically updates all current state and territory summaries, and additionally, will be adding summaries for the other U.S. territories not previously included. Continue reading
The State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs have become a well-known financing option for many water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the country. This is mainly due to the longevity of the clean water (CWSRF) and drinking water (DWSRF) programs and the appealing financing options, such as low-interest rates, offered in each state. However, many communities across the country still struggle to obtain this federal money, despite the borrowing incentives, due to capacity at the community level. In 2014, changes in the Clean Water Act permanently added an affordability section to the CWSRF program. On the DWSRF program side, the American Recovery Act of 2009 required states to offer additional forms of subsidization to applicants, including principal forgiveness. This brings up the question: What metrics are states using—or should consider using—to determine principal forgiveness eligibility for low-income communities? Continue reading
Water systems across the country have approached drinking water affordability using different metrics and innovative solutions. While other parts of the country take on affordability at a local level, California is tackling this issue at the statewide level.
In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 685, declaring water to be a human right. This enactment not only made California the first state to legally recognize this basic need, but highlighted challenges that needed to be addressed in order to fulfill the State’s commitment. This post focuses on 1) the affordability challenge which has received national attention as California tries to implement the first statewide low-income rate assistance (LIRA) program and 2) other proposed or passed California legislation related to water affordability.