June 17, 2021 - SACRAMENTO – Legislation from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would help hundreds of thousands of Californians who have fallen behind on their water bills and are at risk of being disconnected from water service cleared a key committee on Wednesday.
“Keeping Californians connected to drinking water is essential, regardless of their income level or economic status,” Sen. Dodd said. “My bill ensures families will be able to pay for water services needed to protect their health and safety. I thank committee members for maintaining access to this vital service.”
Sen. Dodd’s legislation comes as the State Water Resources Control Board heard results of a survey that found water debt in California climbed to about $1 billion. The survey estimated 12% of California households are behind on their water bills with an average debt of $500 per household. Many of those people are on the brink of service disconnection.
Senate Bill 222, the Water Rate Assistance Program, would allow low-income ratepayers experiencing economic hardship to keep their drinking and wastewater services. It would build on Sen. Dodd’s earlier legislation. His Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Act, or Assembly Bill 401, commissioned a study for how to address affordability. It resulted in recommendations including this new fund. He also wrote The Water Shutoff Protection Act, or SB 998, which provided significant safeguards against water disconnections.
SB 222 was approved by the Assembly’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials committee on a bipartisan, 7 to 2 vote after previously clearing the full Senate. It now goes to the Assembly Utilities and Energy committee. It is backed by a coalition of water advocates including the Community Water Center, Clean Water Action and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
“Millions of Californians are drowning in water debt,” said Susana De Anda, executive director and co-founder of Community Water Center. “SB 222 would be a lifeline for low-income families who are struggling to afford their water bills. We're proud to work alongside Senator Dodd and our community partners on moving this critical legislation forward.”
“Water affordability is a key contributor to community health and sustainability,” said Jennifer Clary, California director for Clean Water Action. “We appreciate Senator Dodd’s long-term and consistent leadership to provide safe and affordable drinking water to all Californians.”
“As tap water continues to get ever more expensive, most California families lack any effective safety net,” said Michael Claiborne, directing attorney for Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. “Low-income families struggling to pay for drinking water urgently need aid to avoid the risk of shutoff and tradeoffs for other essential expenses. That is why we are sponsoring SB 222, which would establish the framework for a statewide affordability program.”
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. You can learn more about the district and Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd
Source: Senator Bill Dodd