CARES Act Info for Utilities (July 10, 2020, courtesy of Missouri Public Utility Association)
Municipal utilities have the opportunity to use the local government CARES Act money to establish a financial assistance program for individuals impacted by COVID-19. The financial assistance program can assist individuals that have not paid utility bills or have incurred significant late fees from March 1 to June 15, with subsequent opportunities until December 31. The term “individuals” can include residential and business customers as long as they have not received federal money to make the same payments. Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA) has developed resources that will guide a municipal utility through the development of a local financial assistance program. This program can be brought to the county for application of use of the local government CARES Act money.
SCENARIO #1 – UTILITY DIRECT PROGRAM
Review the attached documents starting with the Guidance Brief. This document provides the background information and associated federal FAQ documents necessary for developing a complete application to the county to establish the financial assistance program for utility payments.
MPUA has provided examples of applications, spreadsheets, and certification forms providing necessary record keeping for audit purposes.
- Exhibits A and Exhibit B are examples of applications to be filed out by the residential and business financial assistance recipients. These can be pre-filled by your utility.
- Exhibit C is a sample spreadsheet developed to keep an ongoing log of the recipients
- Exhibit D is the recommended Funding Certification for Utility Payments. ( we suggest that this form is reviewed by your attorney before use)
SCENARIO #2 – OUTSOURCED PROGRAM
Additionally, here is an example of a community action agency developed program in Callaway County. The City of Fulton has proactively approached their community action agency and worked with the Central Missouri Community Action agency on the attached draft agreement. This is another route your community could take in order to provide assistance to those struggling with utility payments due to COVID-19.
Research on Wastewater Could Provide early Warning of Covid-19
In a partnership between the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the University of Missouri – Columbia, wastewater treatment plants throughout Missouri, with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services as the lead agency, the State of Missouri is leading the way in researching ways to track the spread of Covid-19. This cutting-edge research started with a pilot study at the end of May and expanded to more than 60 wastewater treatment plants agreeing to sample their wastewater every week. This covers approximately 70% of the state’s population. Every municipality that was approached to participate in this study agreed and it is believed that the research results could be the “canary in the coal mine”, where the results could predict which area of the state might see a spike in Covid-19 cases. This potential early warning system might give additional time to local hospitals and clinics to prepare for a jump in hospitalizations.
This project would never have happened without the cooperation of many municipalities and their municipally-owned wastewater treatment plants. Currently, results are provided to county health departments, so municipal officials are encouraged to inquire with their county health agencies to discuss the weekly results and trends. The agencies involved in this research are working on a dashboard that will summarize all the data collected and that will be available to the public in the near future.
MDHSS Press Release
Drinking Water and Wastewater Facilities – EPA Travel Authorization Template Available
EPA is providing a template for state, localities, drinking water and wastewater utilities to use to provide documentation to essential workers. The Agency has provided a template that state, localities and water utilities can use to provide documentation to workers that are considered essential: Water Utility Template: COVID-19 Pandemic (DOCX)(2 pp, 31 K, April 3, 2020)
For Municipally Owned Drinking Water Systems
The 2018 America's Water Infrastructure Act, Section 2013, requires drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 people to develop or update risk assessments and emergency response plans. The law specifies the components that the risk assessments and emergency response plans must address and establishes deadlines by which water systems must certify to EPA completion of the risk assessment and emergency response plan. Several of the deadlines are approaching. If you think you will have difficulty meeting your deadline due to COVID-19 related impacts, it is recommended that you send a force majeure notice to EPA as soon as possible, explaining why compliance with the deadline is impracticable (e.g., unavailability of contractors, inability to conduct public outreach, etc.) along with the date by which you propose to submit the plan.
Help For Low-Income Residents Unable to Pay Utilities or Rent Due to COVID-19
If you have low-income citizens in your municipality who, due to COVID-19, are not able to afford rent or utilities, below are links to local community action networks where they can apply for assistance. If you have city-owned utilities and have not shut off utilities for lack of payment because of COVID-19, you can direct low-income residents who may be delinquent in payment to reach out to these community action agencies. These agencies have been provided state and federal funding through the Missouri Housing Development Commission, and other funding sources including the Missouri Housing Trust Fund (state funds) and the Emergency Solutions Grant (federal funds).
Links to agencies and resources related to wastewater and drinking water:
Update on wastewater treatment and Covid 19:
Earlier this week, the California State Water Boards issued information on Covid 19 and wastewater/reuse/biosolids. One of the key findings, according to the Association of Missouri Cleanwater Agencies, is as follows:
“Viruses, including COVID-19, are inactivated during the wastewater treatment process and do not end up in left-over biosolids or sludge. Viruses are inactivated throughout the different stages of the wastewater treatment processes and again in the biosolids treatment process itself from heat exposure during anaerobic digestion.”
What Others Are Saying and For More Information:
United States Environmental Protection Agency:“Standard treatment and disinfectant processes at wastewater treatment plants are expected to be effective.”
Federal Centers for Disease Control: “At this time, the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low. Although transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through sewage may be possible, there is no evidence to date that this has occurred. The available information suggests that standard municipal wastewater system chlorination practices may be sufficient to inactivate coronaviruses, as long as utilities monitor free available chlorine during treatment to ensure it has not been depleted.”
Water Environment Federation: “Current efforts to elucidate numbers of infections in the community and support public health surveillance have relied on detecting the virus in wastewater using molecular techniques that identify genetic material (RNA), but this method does not assess virus viability or infectivity. Further, there is currently no epidemiological evidence that wastewater is a route of transmission.”
World Health Organization: “There is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems with or without wastewater treatment.”