Padilla Pushes for Permanent Water Assistance Funding Program at Hearing on President’s Budget Request

WATCH: Padilla emphasizes importance of water affordability assistance for low-income families

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, pressed Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Shalanda Young on key priorities, including the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), during a hearing on President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget proposal. With funding set to run out in California after March, Director Young expressed the Administration’s support for funding to continue LIHWAP assistance.

Padilla last month introduced the LIHWAP Establishment Act to formally authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ nationwide water assistance program to help low-income families afford skyrocketing water and sewer bills. Congress previously appropriated more than $1 billion for this purpose, serving 1.4 million households from June 2021 to September 2023.

Key Excerpts

PADILLA: I appreciate the Administration’s continued recognition of this successful program in the President’s Budget by allowing for its continuation under LIHEAP, at least until we can pass my legislation that would make LIHWAP permanent. The goal there is to provide a separate, long-term authorization of the program. But unfortunately, in appropriating the funds, Congress has failed to allow for the set aside that the Administration has proposed in this and previous budget requests. So, Director Young … is the expansion of eligible uses to allow LIHWAP services factored into the $4.1 billion funding level proposed for LIHEAP? Was this budgeted to ensure that HHS can provide both LIHEAP and LIHWAP assistance without eating into the LIHEAP program? So can you speak to that and the importance of enacting an appropriations bill that reflects this goal?

YOUNG: One, I helped get that program started in the appropriations bill. It saved a lot of families from the water cutoffs in the middle of the pandemic. How terrible would that have been had we not done something. And we absolutely support the set aside, 2.7 percent, and believe that would allow the LIHWAP program to continue without eating into the LIHEAP program, which is also incredibly important.

Earlier this year, Padilla led 24 Senators in requesting continued funding for LIHWAP in any funding legislation. More than 150 organizations — including water associations, environmental and public interest organizations, consumer advocates, and labor unions — wrote a similar letter urging Congress to provide FY 2024 funding for LIHWAP.

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