The National Rural Water Association, which represents water systems that serve fewer than 10,000 customers, is calling on Congress to extend financial aid to small utilities that are being affected by revenue losses due to the pandemic.
The association makes three requests:
- Offer low-interest loans — below 1 percent — to those utilities most in need through the Rural Utilities Service, a federal agency that works with small providers.
- Use grant funding to help utilities with operational expenses.
- Allow for the forgiveness, in certain cases, of principal and interest on existing loans.
The emergency assistance bills that Congress passed so far in response to the pandemic have not included aid directly to water utilities.
NWRA projects that small water and wastewater utilities will lose about $1 billion in revenue from declining water sales as businesses and industries shuttered and as customers in economic crisis fall behind on their payments.