Jack Walker Published

Capito Open To Renewal Of Water Bill Subsidy Program

Someone's hand holds a drinking glass beneath a faucet, filling it with water.
The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program provides families nationwide one-time subsidies for water services.
Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Getty Images

Since it was established four years ago, the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) has helped more than 17,000 low-income households access water services across West Virginia.

But without renewed federal funding, the program is soon set to expire. 

In February, Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., introduced the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program Establishment Act, which would make the program permanent.

Now, West Virginia officials like Charlotte Lane, chair of the Public Service Commission (PSC), are urging the state’s lawmakers to back Padilla’s bill and support the creation of a permanent version of the program.

On Wednesday, Lane wrote a letter to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., asking her to help renew funding for LIHWAP.

“Water is our most important resource. Our local communities rely on water systems to provide safe drinking water,” she wrote. “We believe it is imperative that Congress take action to… ensure that low-income households do not lose access to this critical assistance.”

Without a program like LIHWAP in place, Lane said access to water and wastewater services would become more insecure for many West Virginians.

“If the LIHWAP program lapses, there is no question that many will suffer,” she wrote. “LIHWAP has proven to be a successful program in getting assistance to those who need it the most.”

During a press briefing Thursday, Capito indicated that she would consider renewing LIHWAP’s funding.

But she stopped short of endorsing a permanent version of the program, and said lawmakers were considering adjustments to how LIHWAP operates.

“We’re looking at extending it. I think we have to look at some reforms, maybe, to the program,” she said. “But we will be looking at the letter that the PSC sent us, and [seeing] how it most directly impacts our West Virginians.”

After a brief extension period, February marked the last month for LIHWAP to accept new applicants. Without renewed funding, this will be the final year for LIHWAP to distribute its one-time subsidies to households nationwide.

A similar program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, is permanent. States are granted a pool of money annually, and distribute it to low-income households to support their heating and cooling needs.