By Michael Barnes
Access to affordable water has been called “the invisible crisis” in the United States. Studies show the cost of household water services has risen 40% from 2010 to 2015. In California alone, a recent state Water Boards’ survey estimates that 12% of households in the state have water debt averaging $500 per household.
To address the growing issue of affordable water, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Community Services recently announced the start of release of funding for the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). Congress appropriated more than $1.1 billion to establish this new emergency water and wastewater assistance program.
Grants will be issued and administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Office of Community Services (OCS). The LIHWAP grants will be available to states and other entities that received fiscal year 2021 Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds.
Grant recipients must provide funds to owners or operators of public water systems or treatment works. Water systems and treatment works will use the grants to reduce arrearages of, and rates charged to, low-income households for water and wastewater services. All grant obligations are due by September 30, 2023 with all expenditures to be made by December 30, 2023.
HHS OCS is using existing processes, procedures, policies, and systems in place to provide assistance to low-income households. These existing processes include LIHEAP criteria and procedures to determine household eligibility. The program targets households with income equal to or less than 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). In addition, the program also targets households that spend more than 30 percent of monthly income on housing.
Similar to the LIHEAP program criteria, LIHWAP eligibility depends on an income threshold that grant recipients use to help determine benefit eligibility. This new program offers an opportunity for grant recipients to leverage The Work Number® for up-to-date, real-time verification of income and employment. Equifax encourages states and counties to consider using The Work Number for their full LIHEAP and LIHWAP caseloads. In addition, The Work Number can help support continuous monitoring of changes in employment and income. Through The Work Number and other solutions, Equifax can help agencies:
OCS has expressed an urgency in dispersing funds due to expiring water disconnect moratoriums. As a result, this is a perfect opportunity for state or county administering agencies to take advantage of The Work Number, providing the most up-to-date income and employment information available from contributing employers and payroll providers.
Contact Equifax now to learn more about how The Work Number can help you quickly and efficiently get benefits to those in need.