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WaterOperator.org Blog

Articles in support of small community water and wastewater operators.


Jill Wallitschek
Jill Wallitschek
Jill Wallitschek's Blog

Inspiring the Future of Women in Wastewater

Inspiring the Future of Women in Wastewater

Editor's Note: We would like to thank NYC Environmental Protection for permission to use this photo.

Despite such worthwhile career prospects, in 2018 women made up only 5.8%  of water and wastewater operators according to statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau. As the water workforce ages and experienced operators retire, the water and wastewater industry can benefit by recruiting more women into the field. Mutually so, inquisitive women with interests in protecting public health and sustaining our environment have much to receive from the opportunities available within the industry.

In the field of wastewater treatment specifically, professionals can exercise their curiosity in the sciences while building technical and mechanical skills. The wastewater operator career not only offers extensive opportunity for growth and advancement, but starting positions often pay well, sustain job security, and will provide on-the-job training. The duties of an operator are an essential public service that require knowledge of wastewater safety, math, chemistry, microbiology, treatment processes, and utility operations and maintenance. Those with a penchant for problem solving and mechanical skills will fare well in the field. Other skills women can develop as a wastewater operator involve communication, presentation, collaboration, and eventually, management.

In the Empowering Women Podcast, Christen Wood, wastewater operations administrator of Summit County Department Sanitary Sewer Services and three time participant of WEFTEC’s operations challenge (with two of her teams making it all the way to nationals), describes the “happy accidents” that allowed her to stumble upon the field. She explains why she continues to hold such passion for her position noting that work as a wastewater operator is a career path, not a job. Listen to Christen’s interview to get a better idea about the type of tasks involved in the day to day work of an operator and the significance of those tasks in public and environmental health.

Still not convinced? NYC Water offers an excellent summary of the benefits a wastewater career will offer to women interested in the field. If you get anything out of this video, we hope its that you start to consider how you can fit into the wastewater industry! Find more information about the experience of women in the water industry at the Words on Water Podcast’s Inspiring Women in Water podcast series. The same podcast produced a separate interview with Mel Butcher, an engineering consultant at Arcadis. Her interview discusses how challenges that women do face as minorities in the industry can be overcome through honest conversation. 

Workforce diversity leads to new ideas, innovation, and progress. Consider how you can bring your skills to wastewater treatment.

AWWA & RCAP Release AWIA Small Systems E-Training

AWWA & RCAP Release AWIA Small Systems E-Training

The America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) was signed into law in October 2018, requiring drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 people to develop or update risk and resilience assessments (RRA) and emergency response plans (ERP) within the deadlines determined by system size. With this Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed guidance documents to help systems comply with these new requirements. These resources include a qualitative RRA Checklist specifically designed for small systems as well as an ERP template. The purpose of these materials is to help systems achieve the minimum compliance under AWIA Section 2013.

To complement these small system resources, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) have partnered to build a free e-learning program with funding from the U.S. EPA. The on-demand training condenses ANSI/AWWA standards for security, risk management, and resilience as well as the AWWA’s Risk and Resilience Certification Program to help systems comply with AWIA. This new AWIA Small Systems Certificate Program contains four courses:

  • Introduction to Resiliency and America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (EL272)
  • Operational Measures for Resiliency (EL273)
  • How to Develop a Risk and Resilience Assessment (EL274)
  • How to Develop a Small System Emergency Response Plan (EL275)
  • Bonus: Cybersecurity (Available late 2020)

Each course (See preview 1/2) features a series of video presentations with regular knowledge checks, a course evaluation, and a final assessment. The modules within the course (See preview 2 /2) are easy to follow and offer an excellent overview of AWIA knowledge requirements. At the end of the training, participants will receive a certificate of completion. CEU approval is available depending on your operator certification agency. See AWWA's credit policy.

The training also includes a separate AWWA/RCAP worksheet that can be used in the field to conduct an RRA. While housed under the AWWA’s resources for small systems, free registration is available to both members and non-members of the AWWA. To access the course participants are required to create or use a (free) AWWA account. We’ve highlighted the steps to create an account as well as how to access the courses. Any of the following screenshots can be enlarged by simply clicking on them to open the image in a new tab.

Creating a Free Account:

  1. At the top right-hand corner of the AWWA website is a link that says Login. Click this link to create a free account.
  2. Turn your attention toward the 'Create New Account' section of the new webpage. Read the Privacy Policy and select ‘I Agree – Create Account’.

    Screenshot of Login Page

  3. Enter your email address in the next page.
    Note: During this step the AWWA will check to see if you’ve already created an existing account with this email. If your account already exists and you’ve forgotten your password, you can perform a password reset.
  4. To continue creating a new account you will want to fill out each field to the best of your abilities. For the address type, you can select Home, Delivery, or Office/USmail.
    If you choose to use your utility address, keep the address type as office/USmail. Enter every field and select ‘Find Company’.
    1. If your utility is already in the database, select the utility name and then Continue.
    2. If your utility is not listed in the results, you will have to manually enter your address by selecting ‘None of the Above’ and Continue.
  5. More fields will appear after entering the address. Entering a phone number is optional, but you will have to choose a secure password. Be sure it is something you will remember or keep it written in a safe place.
  6. Check the agreement box to agree to the Consent Capture statement. This statement grants AWWA permission to collect and store your personal information to maintain your account. Your page should now look close to this:

    Completed Fields for Account Set Up Screenshot

  7. Select Next.
  8. Now your account is active! You can tell that you’re logged in because your name will appear at the very top, right-hand corner of any AWWA webpage.

Accessing the Courses:

  1. Information about the AWIA Small Systems Certificate e-training can be found at the Small Systems webpage. To find this page using the AWWA navigation bar, hover over ‘Professional Development’ and select ‘Small Systems’. Lots of great small system training and resources can be found here!

  2. From this page, scroll down to ‘Safe Drinking Water Act Compliance Training’ heading. Select the tab ‘AWIA Small Systems Certificate Program’. This tab includes the redemption code ‘SMSYS20’ that will be required in the following steps to provide account access to the courses.

    Screen Scot of the Certificate Program Tab

  3. Now make sure you’re logged into the AWWA site and select your name in the top, right-hand corner of the webpage. If your name does not appear in the top navigation then you are not logged in.
  4. A page called ‘My Account’ should be loaded. Now select ‘My Courses’ in the left-hand menu. This will bring you to the AWWA eLearning platform. You might want to bookmark this link for easy course access in the future!

    Screen Scot of the My Courses Link

  5. In this page under 'Small System Course Access', enter the code ‘SMSYS20’ and select Redeem.
  6. Now all free courses available to small systems will be placed in your enrollments. A temporary menu will pop up where you can look through these courses.
    If you close this menu you will be returned to the eLearning home page. By scrolling down you can find the same small system enrollments. These enrollments include the individual courses that make up each small system certificate program. Since this list is not sorted by certificate program, you’ll want to search for each course by the names listed at the beginning of this blog. Start with EL272 and work toward EL275.

Returning to the Course:

  1. Sign in to the AWWA site with your existing account by selecting ‘Login’ in the top, right-hand corner of any AWWA webpage. The username is your email.
  2. Once logged in, select your name in the top, right-hand corner of the page where it used to say Login.
  3. A webpage called ‘My Account’ should be loaded. Now select ‘My Courses’ in the left-hand menu. This will bring you to the AWWA eLearning platform. You might want to bookmark this link for quicker access next time.
  4. Scroll down on the e-learning homepage to access your courses.

We recommend systems check out both the EPA tools as well as the new e-training to decide what worksheets and strategies are best for your utility. Remember that RCAP’s technical assistance providers are available throughout the country to help you achieve AWIA compliance, work through these courses, and even facilitate tabletop exercises for emergency preparedness. For a deeper understanding of AWIA compliance and these small system resources, operators can view the June 10, 2020 webinar recording: Small Systems Guidance for America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

Promoting Equality and Equity: Resources for the Water Industry

Promoting Equality and Equity: Resources for the Water Industry

Editor's Note: We want to thank NYC Environmental Protection for permission to use their photo in this post.

Our team at WaterOperator.org was pleased to see organizations such as the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the American Water Works Association (AWWA), make public statements in support of the racial justice movement. Our program is committed to promoting and upholding the principles of inclusion in everything we do.

Racial injustice affects all of us — at home, at work, and in our daily societal interactions. Times like these define who we are, shed light on our world view, and, most importantly, are an opportunity to affect change. We all play an important role in developing and maintaining equitable places to work and live. Here are just a few resources that might be helpful as your organization navigates this call to action:

A Water Utility Manager’s Guide to Community Stewardship
Highlighted by David LaFrance, CEO of the American Water Works Association, in his message to the water industry from a Water Online commentary, this manual features a chapter on human resources identifying how to promote welcoming cultures and increase diversity in the workplace.
Host: American Water Works Association

Could This Be What Employees Experience in Your Workplace?
On page 26 of the February 2018 edition of the APWA Reporter, author and operations manager for St. Paul Public Works Department, Beverly Ann Farraher, highlights how public works employee Antione Posey faced racial discrimination in the workplace. The objective of this article is to invigorate readers to consider how they can take positive action to support diversity and inclusivity.
Host: American Public Works Association

U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism
Featured in a recent WEF Smart Brief, this article outlines ways that industry leaders can support minority employees to feel physically and psychologically safe in their workplace during such difficult times of racial injustice.
Host: Harvard Business Review

Water Equity Clearinghouse
This online database showcases organizations and the practices they implement to make water and wastewater service accessibility more equitable and inclusive.
Host: U.S. Water Alliance

Working Toward the Utility of the Future by Understanding and Addressing Bias
Presented at a 2016 conference hosted by the Pacific Northwest Section AWWA, these slides teach readers how the brain processes information to form subconscious biases.  Water industry professionals will learn how to negate these biases to produce and foster a more innovative and diverse workforce.
Host: Pacific Northwest Section American Water Works Association

Echoed by RCAP CEO Nathan Ohle in his statement on the death of George Floyd, there is more diversity found in rural and tribal communities than most people realize. This diversity is one of the many things that make them so extraordinary. We encourage all systems and the communities that they serve to examine how they can promote diversity and remove any barriers that hinder its livelihood both inside and outside of the workplace.  With that, we will leave you with a quote taken from a Workforce Diversity article by Rachel Gilbert included in the AWWA Journal: 

The concept of Diversity & Inclusion needs to be regarded as a value — not just a program or priority. Priorities change values don’t.”

A Message from Nathan Ohle, RCAP CEO

A Message from Nathan Ohle, RCAP CEO

Editor's Note: WaterOperator.org is proudly funded through a partnership with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). In this blog post we have highlighted a recent statement by RCAP CEO Nathan Ohle in response to the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed.

Throughout the past few weeks, we have witnessed yet another systemic injustice with the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed. Over four decades, the RCAP Network has always stood for the common good, including a fair and just society that fosters healthy conversations, true collaboration and equitable partnerships. We strive to celebrate and lift the incredibly diverse make up of rural and tribal communities that we see every day through our work.

We do not have all the answers to address the inequity taking place across the country, or yet know what role the RCAP Network can play in this conversation. However, it is clear that we need to create a space for those conversations to take shape, and to elevate the voices of the rural communities that are working collaboratively with people from all walks of life. We work on regionalization and regional collaboration projects across the country, helping to facilitate tough conversations and bridge differences between and among communities. Those tough conversations are critical to ensuring that we create equitable opportunity for all communities.

What we see happening today in America is not just happening in big cities, it lives in communities of all sizes. Everyone wants to feel safe, secure, and valued, but too many people in this country do not.

Rural communities are much more diverse than most people realize. It is the diversity that exists in rural communities that makes them so special. Ensuring that everyone has affordable access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater disposal was the founding principal of RCAP, with a specific focus on the most vulnerable populations across the country. As we consider where we can play a role, we are always here to listen, learn and to support important conversations in whatever form they should take. RCAP will continue to focus on creating and lifting up positive stories, encouraging continued collaboration, providing venues for fruitful conversations, and ensuring that rural communities of color have an equitable opportunity.

The Lytton Tribe Manages Government to Government Wastewater Agreements

The Lytton Tribe Manages Government to Government Wastewater Agreements

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the June 2020 edition of our Tribal Utility Newsletter. You can subscribe to this newsletter or find past editions here.

In 1961 federal recognition of the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians was unlawfully terminated. While this recognition was restored in 1991, the Tribe was only granted federal recognition of a reservation in December of last year. During this time the Lytton Tribe built its success by establishing a San Pablo casino. Funds from the casino were used to purchase 500 acres of land near Windsor, California. Since then the Tribe has been working with Sonoma County to develop 147 housing units as well as a resort and winery.

Now that this ongoing development can be performed on land officially held in trust by the U.S. federal government, the Tribe is no longer subject to local land use restrictions. As such, the Lytton Tribe must assess all potential options to best meet future wastewater needs. Collaboration with their Windsor neighbors as well as an environmental assessment identified two primary options:

  • Onsite construction of a private wastewater treatment facility with management overseen by a private firm.
  • Joining the Windsor wastewater treatment plant to meet residential needs with construction of a smaller treatment plant for commercial wastewater.

Construction of a separate wastewater facility drew concerns for the town of Windsor. Effluent discharge would flow into gravel pits near the town's well field and a local watershed. Windsor residents were also concerned about potential treatment odors. If the Tribe connected to the existing treatment plant, they would benefit from the plant's existing efficiencies and reuse opportunities while leaving land available for future Tribal housing.

After accessing the capacity of the Windsor plant, the Tribe and town agreed to connect to the existing facility for a $20 million connection fee. Approximately $3.5 million of this will go toward aeration basin improvements to increase capacity for the Tribe's future development projects. Costs to connect services will be funded by the Tribe. Agreements such of these can often be tedious, however the town and the Lytton Tribe are working well to overcome disagreements, maintain transparency, and find a solution that mutually benefits both parties. The next steps in this project involve drafting a Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement over the wastewater services.

Through this work, the Lytton Tribe demonstrates how to traverse the formation of complex government to government agreements.To assist tribes with future water or wastewater system agreements and partnerships take advantage of the U.S. EPA's Water System Partnerships Handbook, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership's Resiliency Through Water and Wastewater System Partnerships, and the Water Research Foundation's Water Utility Partnerships Resource Guide and Toolbox.

Featured Video: Sewer Cleaning in Los Angeles California with Kent Carlson

Featured Video: Sewer Cleaning in Los Angeles California with Kent Carlson

For roughly 30 years Kent Carlson worked for the City of Los Angeles to bring innovation and new technology to the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Sanitation. When the Bureau observed that new technology was falling behind on their collections side, Kent was brought over to assist with tool development and the standardization of sewer cleaning procedures. Under the mission to reduce sewer overflows and recognize increasing drought in southern California, one of his favorite inventions featured a sewer nozzle designed to reduce water use and save time during cleaning.

In his article with CWEA Water News he offers his predictions on the future of the sewer profession asserting, “I think it’s an exciting future – technology is exploding in this sector – CCTV, GIS, computers on the trucks. Sewer workers of the future will be much better with technology. Rather than using rudimentary brute force for cleaning we’ll get smarter, more strategic and more efficient at what we do.”

Kent’s enthusiasm for tool development is demonstrated in this week’s featured video. The 5-minute video highlights the history of sewer cleaning in Los Angeles as well as a demonstration of how his team tests and develops their sewer cleaning tools. Back in the day, sewer cleaning featured manual removal of clogged pipes and sewer mains. Today, his team takes advantage of high-pressure tools and robotics. Kent says the best tools for sewer cleaning are designed or personally modified by the facility staff. These tools ultimately help the Bureau of Sanitation affordably maintain approximately 6,500 miles of pipe, some of which was originally installed as far back as 1883. We hope this week's featured video inspires your system to find new and innovative ways to help your utility operate more efficiently.

Managing Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs)

Managing Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs)

The U.S. EPA estimates that approximately 23,000 to 75,000 sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) occur in the United States each year. An SSO is defined by the release of untreated sewage into the environment through an overflow, spill, basement backup, or unpermitted discharge before completed treatment at the sewage plant. These overflows can degrade water quality, cause property damage, and pose serious threats to public and environmental health due to the release of harmful pollutants, disease causing microorganisms, metals, and nutrients into the environment. 

Section 301 of the Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants to any Water of the United States from a point source without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. To address compliance challenges associated with SSOs, the EPA recently completed a National Compliance Initiative that first began in 2000 to reduce the discharge of raw sewage in national water ways.

SSOs occur through debris or grease blockages, root intrusion, vandalism, inflow and infiltration, improper design, aging infrastructure, operational mistakes, and structural, mechanical, or electrical failures. Typically, the most frequent culprit takes the form of blockages. After an overflow, clean up and response is not only expensive, but traumatic for the impacted communities.

In Queens, NY a sewage backup on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend of 2019 flooded the basements of approximately 100 homeowners creating a putrid odor and exposing the community to harmful pathogens. Liability for residential damages and repairs to the pipe was projected to reach millions of dollars.  The culprit for the backup? While operators initially theorized a grease induced fatberg was to blame, investigation later revealed a collapsed sewer pipe instigated the SSO.

In New England and around the country, many communities maintain collection systems of 100 years old or more. Aging infrastructure exacerbates SSO prevention challenges. As years of wear on system equipment increases, the likelihood of mechanical or electrical failures as well as the opportunity for inflow and infiltration increases. Pipe deterioration due to natural freeze-thaw cycles, environmental conditions, water flow, and water chemistry can also increase the likelihood of structural failures. When this deterioration is not routinely inspected and maintained, resulting failures will only add further hydraulic stress to the system.

The frequency of SSOs can be reduced significantly through preventative maintenance and the implementation of an appropriate asset management program. To upgrade your preventative maintenance program, an article from the March 2017 Kansas Lifeline discusses the basics of lift station maintenance. The Georgia Association of Water Professionals provides a more comprehensive guide of collection system maintenance practices in its 2016 guide Wastewater Collection System Best Management Practices.

Developing an asset management program will allow systems to plan for the replacement or rehabilitation of aging pipes, pumps stations, valves, manholes, and collection system infrastructure. During program development systems can predict and plan for population changes, capacity objectives, equipment deterioration, and more. To encourage proper asset management of collection systems, the EPA developed the CMOM program. CMOM stands for Capacity, Management, Operations, and Maintenance.  The information-based management approach encourages dynamic collection system management through the prioritization of activities and investments. Utilities can access how well their current practices meet the CMOM framework using this Self Assessment Checklist and the EPA Evaluation Guide for CMOM at Sanitary Sewer Collection Systems. Follow up this evaluation by integrating CMOM best practices into a new or updated asset management program using this blog post.

Even with the implementation of these programs, systems should still prepare for the event of an unexpected overflow. As in Queens, NY, preventative maintenance and asset management did not stop the SSO on the Thanksgiving weekend. Systems must be prepared to respond swiftly with a Sanitary Sewer Overflow Response Plan. These emergency response plans will limit potential damages and reduce community distress. By combining preventative maintenance, asset management, and emergency response planning, systems can ensure that their community and its environment have the best protection from SSOs.

ISAWWA COVID-19 Utility Impact Survey

ISAWWA COVID-19 Utility Impact Survey

To assess management approaches and concerns utilities have adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Section of the American Water Works Association (ISAWWA) released a utility survey to their membership via email on April 3, 2020. Available for one week, 141 members responded with 139 of these respondents representing public water or wastewater systems. Eleven survey questions focused on operational, managerial, and financial changes implemented in response to the pandemic as well as system concerns and needs moving forward. Three additional questions gathered information on utility demographics. Results from the survey can be found in the report: COVID-19 Impact on Utilities. In this blog we will highlight some of the key findings below.

The report indicates that the primary concerns for Illinois utilities focus on maintaining staff health, staff availability, and the continuity of operations. To respond to the pandemic, many systems have implemented staff scheduling changes, split shifts, and the reduction of staffing hours. The survey report goes on to note how other changes are being implemented and how those changes are impacting operations. Regarding revenue, many systems believe it is still too early to understand the full financial impact of the pandemic and have not begun planning for worst-case scenarios. Of those who have noticed changes in revenue, few have witnessed a positive impact on finances. The majority note that they are experiencing lowered commercial water use, an increase in non-payments, cuts to capital projects, or hiring freezes. Emergency response plans offer an effective way to mitigate many pandemic challenges, however the survey notes that only 56% of respondents are developing plans.

Additional questions from the report elucidate the training needs identified by respondents and how utilities are complying with an order by the Illinois Commerce Commission to discontinue water shutoffs.

Of notable interest to small systems, the report includes a section to highlight how system size impacts pandemic response and concerns. To develop these size related trends, the ISAWWA asked respondents whether they represented a small system serving a population of 5,000 or fewer, a medium system serving between 5,001 to 50,000, or a large system serving greater than 50,001. The report reflects that small systems generally have less capacity to respond to the pandemic likely as a result of fewer employees, fewer resources, and the use of a single staff member to maintain a large portion of the system. On the other end, though large systems may have a greater capacity to address the pandemic, they must also overcome the challenges that result from managing a greater number of staff members. Small systems may have fewer challenges related to staff management, however they must also plan for absenteeism more carefully.

For a more detailed review of the survey results, we recommend reviewing the report for yourself. Reading utility responses, concerns, and approaches to managing the virus may assist your system in planning for future challenges and concerns. Visit our web page COVID-19 Resources for Water Systems to find clear and concise information, tools, and resources to make managing these pandemic challenges a little easier.

Challenges Developing an Asset Management Program

Challenges Developing an Asset Management Program

Developing and maintaining an asset management program benefits the short and long-term operations of any utility. During operational, financial, and managerial decision making, choices can be backed by quantifiable data and knowledge gathered from asset inventories, condition assessments, and risk assessments. Furthermore, the maps, spreadsheets, and reports generated for asset management programs can improve communication between board members and utility staff. Asset management programs allow utilities to shift their operations to preventative maintenance and long-term planning.

The recommended methods to develop asset management programs are well documented, however implementation of such methods in the real world generates a slew of both predictable and unpredictable challenges. Fortunately for all communities, it is the responsibility and the nature of any utility to problem solve and overcome these challenges.

In October of 2017, the Michigan Water Environment Association (MWEA) and the Michigan Section American Water Works Association (MI-AWWA) hosted a roundtable seminar on asset management plan development. The results of this roundtable highlight how communities and their consultants developed their own plans in response to new regulatory requirements in Michigan. The Spring 2018 Edition of MWEA Matters summarizes the actual approaches undertaken by these facilities and how they overcame individual challenges in developing an asset management program. These approaches and challenges were divided into six categories:  inventory, condition assessment, risk, O&M/ capital planning, rate integration & level of service, and software.

Most challenges in asset inventories arose around the question of how and where to organize data so that information could be related to other data sources. Challenges in condition assessment were often rooted in cost limitations, evaluating underground infrastructure, and weighting the data available from equipment history, maintenance history, age, condition scores, visual inspections, engineering judgement, and operational institutional knowledge. During risk assessment difficulties emerge when estimating risk for uninspected equipment or considering system redundancies. The final challenge lies in determining how to make maintenance program and financial decisions by balancing institutional knowledge with system modeling.

Utilities can find expertise in avoiding or overcoming these common program develop challenges through the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) or the National Rural Water Association (NRWA). We also recommend searching through our online resource library to find program develop manuals, spreadsheets, and tips to get started. For a general overview of the program development process, review the 13 Session Asset Management Training Slides by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

RCAP Advocacy and Policy Update: COVID-19 Response

RCAP Advocacy and Policy Update: COVID-19 Response

Over the last two weeks, the National Office has been active in promoting the needs of rural water systems and small communities during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis. In the last two weeks, Congress has approved and President Trump signed into law Phase 1 (H.R. 6074) and Phase 2 (H.R. 6201) legislation addressing the COVID-19 crisis in a variety of ways. Phases I, II, and III are the three parts to COVID-19 legislation so far. 
 
Phase I, enacted into law March 6. Provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to ensure vaccines developed to fight the coronavirus are affordable, that impacted small businesses can qualify for Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), and that Medicare recipients can consult with their providers by telephone or teleconference, if necessary or desired.
 
Phase II, signed into law on March 18. This package includes provisions for paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, expanded food assistance, additional unemployment benefits, and requirements that employers provide additional protection for healthcare workers. 
 
Phase III, signed into law on March 27. The Trump administration struck a deal with Senate Democrats and Republicans on a package providing an estimated $2 trillion in spending and tax breaks to strengthen the U.S. economy and fund a nationwide effort to curtail the coronavirus. The price tag of this package is enormous, unprecedented, and is roughly equal to 10% of the country’s economic output. The plan includes approximately $500 billion that can be used to back loans to distressed companies, including $50 billion for loans to U.S. airlines, as well as state and local governments. It also contains more than $350 billion to aid small businesses. While stipulating the airlines as eligible for a special fund of money available for loans, the legislation is otherwise broad in its approach, recognizing that the coronavirus has affected almost every sector of the economy. 
 
It provides payment to states to reimburse nonprofits, government agencies, and Indian tribes for half of the costs they incur through December 31, 2020 to pay unemployment benefits; and funding to support “short-time compensation” programs, where employers reduce employee hours instead of laying off workers. Employees with reduced hours receive a pro-rated unemployment benefit. This provision would pay 100 percent of the costs they incur in providing this short-time compensation through December 31, 2020.
 
Under Phase Ill, all U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) would get a $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) "rebate" payment. They are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. The payments would start phasing out for earners above those income thresholds and would not go to single filers earning more than $99,000; head-of-household filers with one child, more than $146,500; and more than $198,000 for joint filers with no children.

Thank you to Ted Stiger, Senior Director of Government Relations and Policy at the Rural Community Assistance Partnership for providing this update on enacted legislation related to the pandemic.