LIHWAP DCL-2021-01 External Stakeholder Input FY2021

Publication Date: April 7, 2021

Low Income Household Water Assistance Program

Dear Colleague Letter

DCL#:                       LIHWAP-DCL-2021-01

DATE:                       April 7, 2021

TO:                            Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) Grantees, LIHEAP State and Tribal Administrators, and LIHWAP Stakeholders

SUBJECT:                FY 2021 LIHWAP Update and Information and Feedback Session Save-The-Date Announcement

ATTACHMENT(S):    N/A


Dear Colleagues,

The purpose of this message is to provide an update on the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) and to notify LIHWAP grantees and stakeholders of progress and upcoming activities regarding the implementation of the new water program, including two Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) Information and Feedback Sessions on April 20th and 22nd . Communication regarding conference registration and a detailed agenda will be disseminated prior to the meeting through a separate email, and will be available on the LIHWAP webpage.

Background
On December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, included $638 million in emergency spending to assist low-income households with water and wastewater bills. Additionally, on March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 appropriated an additional $500 million in emergency funds to the LIHWAP program. This is a new program and the Office of Community Services (OCS) is responsible for drafting program requirements that are responsive to the legislative intent.

OCS reviewed existing programs to identify processes and procedures that support and align with the Congressional intent of LIHWAP. Per this review, OCS identified the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as most closely aligned with LIHWAP, which will be administered through the Division of Energy Assistance (DEA).

Progress to Date
OCS understands how critically important access to water is and is working expeditiously to establish this new program.

In late February, HHS issued a communication document to every state, territory, and existing tribal grantees of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), asking each jurisdiction to provide contact information, by March 8, for an official designated with the responsibility of administering the new Low Income Home Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).

We are still waiting for designation letters from some states, territories, and tribes. These designation letters are essential for OCS to send communications and administer the new program. The designation letter will identify a responsible governmental official who will be empowered to submit a state or tribal plan and to sign any required certifications or assurances regarding the new Low Income Household Water Assistance Program in order to receive funding. We are requesting that all potential grantees that have not submitted a designation letter do so by Thursday, April 15, 2021. For grantees that have decided not to apply for LIHWAP funding, we are requesting that you send a letter signed by your governor or tribal executive to this affect. For more information on this request, as well as an example designation letter, please refer to the Action Transmittals here.

To ensure that funds are available for emergency needs during this public health crisis, OCS is establishing expedited procedures and will issue funding to enable states, tribes, and territories to begin negotiating agreements with water companies to prevent the disconnection of water and wastewater services and to restore services that have already been disconnected.

For more information about the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program, visit OCS’ new LIHWAP webpage, where you can find previously released Action Transmittals and communications, as well as program updates as they become available. You can also review our recent blog post about the new water assistance program here.

Upcoming Activities

OCS is pleased to announce that we will convene two Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) Information and Feedback Sessions in April. The purpose of these meetings is to provide critical information about LIHWAP requirements and to gain a better understanding of LIHWAP grantees’ anticipated technical assistance needs. We strongly encourage all directly funded LIHEAP state, territory, and tribal grantees to participate, as LIHWAP grantees will include states, territories, and tribes that received fiscal year (FY) 2021 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) awards.

OCS will host this virtual meeting on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. (ET). This meeting is intended for all state, territory, and tribal LIHWAP grantees, federal partners, and other critical stakeholders. The webinar will include an interactive presentation, opportunities to submit questions during the session, and a survey afterward to all participating organizations. Survey questions will focus on the following topics:

  • Understanding of drinking water and wastewater needs;
  • Existing water assistance programs and supports;
  • Adaptation of existing policies and procedures;
  • Anticipated timeframe for assistance to households; and,
  • Technical assistance needs.

OCS will host a second virtual meeting on Thursday, April 22, 2021, from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. (ET). This meeting is intended for tribal LIHEAP grantees only. We are hoping to better understand the most critical water access issues for tribal low-income households in order to better design our policies to serve tribal needs. The webinar will serve as an opportunity for OCS to address program implementation matters that are unique to tribes and tribal organizations.

Communication regarding conference registration and a detailed agenda will be disseminated prior to the meeting through a separate email, and will be available on the LIHWAP webpage by Monday, April 12, 2021.

Thank you for your attention to these matters. OCS looks forward to continuing to provide high-quality services to OCS grantees.

/s/
Lauren Christopher
Director, Division of Energy Assistance
Office of Community Services