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NRWA Coronavirus Update

Posted By Sam Wade, CEO, National Rural Water Association, Thursday, April 2, 2020

As we endure another week of the coronavirus pandemic, we must continue to recognize and thank each of the men and women working every day to ensure our water continues to flow and waste treatment systems continue to operate, while protecting our source waters and the environment. These services are essential to maintain public health, essential to protect the environment and essential to mitigate and eliminate the threat of this virus on our American communities and families. For all these reasons, each individual operating and working in these systems is considered essential to carry out these critical services during this emergency. 

 

Systems of all sizes have taken necessary steps to ensure continuity of service and to protect the industry workforce. State Rural Water Associations have developed a listing of 2,786 retired or otherwise qualified operations specialists to support systems if critical, local utility staff are unable to perform their duties due to the virus. State and federal agencies continue to adjust as the pandemic evolves including extending operator certification deadlines and allowing flexibilities in the regulatory area.   

 

At this point, the financial impact of this virus is resonating throughout the industry across rural America. NRWA anticipates congressional actions in the near future that could include infrastructure funding, and your association will advocate for provisions that will address rural utilities that have been financially impacted from this pandemic. We have heard your voices and concerns and are responding accordingly.

 

Utilities should continue to monitor and update the financial impact on their historic revenue streams as the consequences of this virus continue to evolve. The impact is compounded by several moving factors including businesses that have closed or temporarily shut down; the downturn in the economy; resulting in increased unemployment and lower return on investments. As a result, systems will likely see more late or non-payment for residential services soon. As systems assess this financial impact, if necessary, they should start discussions with their State Rural Development office and other lending institutions regarding what assistance or servicing actions are available to them at this time. Your State Rural Water Association has the resources and expertise to assist in this effort. This assistance can be rendered remotely, maintaining the recommended social distancing guidelines.

 

Overcoming these challenges in the months ahead will require a common goal of ensuring the continuation of these essential services to the public. It will require patience, perseverance and understanding by all. Your State Rural Water Association has the staff expertise and experience to assist your system and jointly take on these challenges. 

 

This long- term trusted partnership with each of you, including our federal, state and local leaders, will ensure that rural America will get through this crisis together. As our nation continues to deal with the pandemic, we thank each and every individual as you continue to take all the precautions you can to maintain social distancing, disinfect surfaces, wash your hands, resist touching your face, all things necessary to stay healthy and lessen the spread of this dreadful outbreak.  

 

Thank you for dedication and service.

Sam Wade

CEO, National Rural Water Association

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