U.S. Congress has passed and President Biden has signed a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, H.R. 1319 , that contains a number of measures important to water utilities. Utilities are urged to begin contacting appropriate officials if they want to apply for any of these funds. Utilities that are part of a municipal entity should begin communicating their needs to city managers, mayors or similar officials and assist them in reaching out to their governors’ offices. If a utility is independent of a city government, utilities should contact governors’ offices directly. Those offices may not have immediate answers to questions about distributing funds but establishing contacts and indicating interest in these funds is important. State agencies may end up handling these funds, but interest on the part of a state’s governor will be important to getting action. Here are features in H.R. 1319, or the American Rescue Plan of 2021, that relate to the water utility sector: $500 million in grants to states and tribes to reduce arrearages and rates charged to low-income water customers. Money will be distributed through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services , just as the $638 million appropriated in December is. This money is to be available until expended and is to be dispersed “by providing funds to owners and operators of public water systems or treatment works to reduce arrearages of and rates charged to such households for such services. $130.2 billion for Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, available through Dec. 31, 2024. This money can be used for the following activities: To make necessary investments in water , sewer, or broadband infrastructure (note this language is very broad, but making the case for how investments in drinking water infrastructure protects public health should be helpful); To provide premium pay of up to an additional $13 an hour to 'essential' workers or grants to their employers for such pay. An individual essential worker can receive no more than $25,000 in such pay; To respond to a public health emergency or its economic consequences, including by providing aid to households, small businesses and nonprofits as well as aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality; To provide government services to the extent necessary because revenues have declined due to the pandemic; and To support private nonprofits that aid the homeless; certain entities (public benefit corporations) involved in the transportation of passengers or cargo; and special purpose units of government such as those that provide water or sewer services or manage local airports. Funds cannot be used to replace revenues lost because the state intentionally cut taxes or provided its citizens with a tax rebate or credit. They may not be used to bolster any pension funds. $21.6 billion in grants to states and local governments for rental assistance. The money is to be used to pay rent, utility and energy bills and other housing expenses. Localities with populations greater than 200,000 will apply directly to U.S. Treasury Department for the money. This money is to be available through Sept. 30, 2027. $9.96 billion in grants to states, territories and tribal agencies for a Homeowner Assistance Fund. Grant recipients may use the funds to provide assistance in making mortgage payments, as well as to help homeowners pay utility bills , flood insurance premiums, homeowners’ association fees, and other aid needed to prevent eviction, mortgage default, foreclosure or the loss of essential utility services . Such funds may also be used to reimburse state and local governments that have used their own funds for this since January 2020 . This money is to be available through Sept. 30, 2025. Questions can be directed to Tommy Holmes , legislative director.