In Action Alerts, Baltimore, MD, COVID-19, Water is a human right
baltimore water justice advocates

ACTION ALERT: Baltimore needs the Water Accountability & Equity Act now!

We and our partners in the Right to Water Coalition worked to pass the Water Accountability & Equity Act in 2019 to reform our dysfunctional water system, but the way in which the Department of Public Works is establishing the water affordability program included in the legislation could have real consequences for low wealth renters. With their plan, the dollar amount of affordability assistance will count as taxable income for tenants in multifamily homes. It’s fundamentally wrong that someone would have to pay taxes on money provided to make their water bill affordable, and having it count as income could potentially push people over the income thresholds for other assistance programs.

Luckily, the funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act have already been designated as not taxable. By using a small percentage of the funds for water justice, we can ensure that getting assistance with a water bill helps – not hurts – tenants. We need to urge Mayor Scott to use $10 million of ARPA funding, less than 2% of the total funding, towards water affordability.

To reach out to Mayor Scott, fill out the public comment by clicking on the button below. Once in the form, select “Other” as a priority area of investment, a small box will pop up once other is selected, write in ‘water affordability’ AND on the last question ‘Are there any other ideas of investment or areas of programming that you would like for us to know about?’ write a message to the Mayor urging him to use $10 million of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to ensure that renters have affordable water service with no consequences.

Sample language:

The devastating economic impact of the pandemic, combined with the additional 10% water rate increase this year has only exacerbated our existing water affordability crisis.

You led the Council to pass the Water Accountability & Equity Act in 2019 with the goal of reforming our water billing system to ensure it works for Baltimoreans. DPW’s plans to have the Water for All affordability credit count as taxable income for tenants in multifamily units goes directly against this goal. It is fundamentally wrong that someone would have to pay taxes on money provided to make their water bill affordable, and having it count as income could potentially push people over the income thresholds for other assistance programs.

By setting aside $10 million – less than 2% of the ARPA funding – for water affordability, we could ensure that low wealth tenants in Baltimore can have truly affordable water service without causing additional financial insecurity for them through 2024, plenty of time to figure out how to fix this for the long run.

Other communities are using this funding for water affordability, including Buffalo, NY; San Antonio, TX; and Phoenix, AZ. Please stand by your commitments to water justice by earmarking $10 million of the ARPA funding for water justice!

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