This week, the Senate Economic Growth Committee reviewed S-3333 for discussion only. While the League agrees that additional efforts are needed to ensure the success of the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), we do not agree that the measures provided for in S-3333 are the most effective way to achieve this goal, and thus opposes S-3333.
S-3333 would prohibit drinking water and wastewater utilities, including municipal utilities, from taking collection actions unless that utility has agreed to participate in the LIHWAP. The LIHWAP is a federally funded program that helps low-income households pay their past due drinking water and wastewater bill. The program makes payment directly to the utility but before payment can be made each utility must sign the vendor agreement with the Department of Community Affairs.
Better success of the LIHWAP program requires a holistic approach that includes not only increased participation from water utilities but also better marketing of the program to ensure individual participation, and to the extent possible, improvements on the individual application to ease the burden placed on customers.
It is our understanding that the hesitancy of many municipal utility and local authorities for entering into the vendor agreement is due to concerns over language within the current vendor agreement that may violate other service agreements and possibly bond covenants. There are also provisions within the vendor agreement that place burdens on these service providers that go beyond the scope and purpose of the LIHWAP that should be removed.
We believe that increased participation can be achieved if these concerns were addressed. The League will be working with the bill’s sponsor, along with municipal utilities and authorities, to try to better understand the hesitancy to participate in the LIHWAP. If your local utility or authority has not signed the vendor agreement necessary to participate in LIHWAP we ask that you please please contact Frank Marshall.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., Associate General Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481, x137.