April 1, 2016

Speaker Heastie Announces $200 Million Increase to NYS Water Infrastructure Improvement Grant Program

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced that the 2016-2017 SFY Budget includes an additional $200 million for the NYS Water Infrastructure Improvement Act to assist municipalities in funding water quality infrastructure projects. The grant program was initiated last year by the Assembly to address the financial crisis that many localities face when securing funding for waste water and drinking water infrastructure projects.

"Through this grant program the Assembly has taken a leadership role in providing local governments the resources to move forward with critical water quality projects that cannot be delayed any longer," said Speaker Heastie. "Increasing our commitment to water quality improvement projects protects public health and the environment while also making these projects affordable for municipalities and taxpayers."

The grant program for municipal water projects, which was part of last year's state budget, was championed by Assemblymembers Steve Otis of Rye and JohnMcDonald of Cohoes, both former mayors, and advocates for addressing municipal infrastructure costs.

"This budget builds upon the success of the water grant program the Assembly initiated last year," said Otis and McDonald in a joint statement. "Governor Cuomo and Speaker Heastie have made this the most effective new program to jump start needed water quality projects and make them more affordable for local governments and taxpayers."

The Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair, Steve Englebright, and Local Governments Committee Chair, William Magnarelli, were also strong advocates for increased funding for the NYS Water Infrastructure Improvement Act this year.

"One of the most important measures we can take to protect our environment is to ensure that municipal water infrastructure is performing at the highest levels," said Engebright. "The additional funding for water infrastructure improvement grants addresses a statewide environmental problem by making it more financially feasible to local governments to upgrade their water systems than it has ever been."

"The NYS Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, which the Assembly championed, addresses the challenges local municipalities face in paying for upgrades or improvements to their water quality systems within their tight budgets," said Magnarelli. "With the availability of these state funds, more municipalities will now find the task of improving their water facilities is no longer out of reach."

The need to invest in clean drinking water and sewage treatment results in significant challenges for municipalities that are unable to fund the overall costs of these projects. Although local governments often have the option of applying for NY Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) loans, many do not take full advantage of this opportunity because they cannot afford to incur the amount of debt necessary to finance their clean water projects.

The Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA) of 2015 got off to a successful start with $200 million allocated over three fiscal years to fund critical water and wastewater system improvements. Last year, the EFC awarded $75 million in the first round of WIIA funding to 45 water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the state.

With the allocation of an additional $200 million in grant funds in this year's budget, a program that did not exist a year ago now will deliver $425 million in direct assistance to make critical water quality projects more affordable. These grants will leverage more than $2 billion in funding for local water infrastructure and benefit taxpayers by reducing the cost of these projects.

The grant program won the support of a wide array of local government, environmental and construction groups.