ANN ARBOR, MICH. (December 22, 2020)—End-of-year legislation to fund the government will boost investments to protect and restore the Great Lakes, increasing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $320 million to $330 million. The initiative is a top priority for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said:

“This budget will keep Great Lakes restoration and protection efforts moving forward, even in the midst of a pandemic. These investments are encouraging to see.

“We’re happy to see Congress continue to support efforts to protect our Great Lakes, drinking water, public health, and quality of life. Federal investments in the lakes are producing results, but serious threats still remain. We look forward to final passage of this bill so that we can continue to move forward to help better our environment, economy, and public health.”

The massive $2.4 trillion package not only includes the consolidated federal budget bill, but also contains clean water investment priorities in the Water Resources Development Act to stop invasive Asian carp, support nature-based solutions to prevent flooding and storm damage, and assist vulnerable communities in addressing pollution. Congress, in its coronavirus relief package attached to the omnibus bill, also includes $638 million for vulnerable communities and utilities in drinking water and wastewater assistance.

Despite this progress, the U.S. Congress declined to enact a nationwide moratorium on water shutoffs leaving thousands – if not millions – without water at a time when clean water is essential to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Congress also failed to boost funding for drinking water and sewage treatment infrastructure at a level commensurate to the need. More than $188 billion is needed in the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to fix and update inadequate water infrastructure that has led to ongoing sewage contamination as well as skyrocketing water bills for people.

“Congress left  important work on the table,” said Rubin. “Our job is not done until we’ve put an end to people having their drinking water shut off to their homes and to sewage contamination that threatens our health. We must upgrade our outdated drinking water and sewage treatment infrastructure now, before these problems get worse and more expensive. Congress needs to act with purpose and urgency to ensure that every person in this country has access to clean, safe, and affordable water. The health of our communities depends on it.”