November 16, 2021 | By Priya Elangovan
What is in the Bill Again?
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) passed the House of Representatives last week, and will soon be signed into law. We did a breakdown in August of what was in the bill after it passed the Senate, and some of its potential impacts. Most of the recent coverage of the bill focused on the negotiations or on the amounts of money going into each initiative – so we’re going to try and break down how it will actually impact people’s lives.
The BIF is a funding bill, it determines the broad categories of what the funding will go to and the specific amount that goes into each bucket, but the ultimate decision of what projects will get built is mostly determined by your state and local representatives. The infrastructure funds in the bill don’t just cover roads and bridges, but also include funds for air quality, street safety, public transportation, broadband expansion, and more. The funds set aside in the bill will be given out from 2022 to 2026.
But now that the bill is passed, the real work of determining what projects will be built over the coming years is just beginning. Federal departments like the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy will have to set up new programs and design grants and grant making systems. Congress will also send some money to each state for the different categories outlined in the bill. Once those funds get to the states, state and local officials will have wide discretion on how the funds will be used as long as they follow all federal guidelines and directives. This is why it matters who we elect to state and local positions! Because of the length of the process in determining which projects will get funding, it will likely be years before individuals see changes in their communities.
If It’s Not Changing Anything Immediately Why Should I Care?
While construction won’t start tomorrow, the funds in this bill will shape infrastructure in our states and cities for the next decades, so it’s important to pay attention to what projects your state and local governments decide they want to fund or apply for funding for. As the Departments stand up new programs, there will also be opportunities for submitting public comments, an important yet rarely discussed form of advocacy.
Most state legislative sessions convene in January 2022, and state representatives will debate what grant funds they are applying for and how to spend the earmarked federal money from the BIF. Examples of how some of these funds could and will be used in different states can be found here. And many cities across the US are planning ambitious projects to increase resilience and mitigate climate impacts, including solar farms, electric buses, and more.
How Can I Take Action?
As these programs take shape, many state and local officials will start to seek community buy in for projects. If you have ever called a local representative to ask for a pothole to be fixed or a fallen tree to be removed, you already have the right skills to advocate for infrastructure projects in your community. Projects like fixing roads will likely be funded and completed faster than projects like replacing lead pipes in a drinking water system.
Before you call or email your state or local rep, take a few minutes to plan out what you’re going to say. Remember to provide your zip code so they know you’re a constituent, include the names (or photos) of the projects you’re referencing, and add in a personal story about how the project would affect you if you can. Research shows that stories of personal or community impact are one of the most effective methods of influencing your representatives. You can use this tool on the AIT website to look up who your reps are and how to contact them! Be sure to share with us on social media or at firstname.lastname@example.org what projects you most want to see in your community!