August 4, 2021 | Priya Elangovan
This week, a bipartisan group of Senators finalized their negotiations on an infrastructure bill that they are calling the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Infrastructure improvements have been a major goal of the Biden Administration, and this bill has been negotiated down from the American Jobs Plan presented in March. That plan proposed $2.25 trillion in new spending, and was criticized by some conservatives for including spending on caregiving, workforce development, and other areas not traditionally considered infrastructure. The bipartisan deal includes $550 billion in new federal investments to be spent over 5 years. Infrastructure spending is seen as massively important because states and cities do not have the funds to make the same kinds of major investments as the federal government.
Biden and the negotiators are hoping to move the bill to a vote by the end of this week, but there are some Senators in both parties who want more time to review the over 2,000 page bill. Learn more about the bill, and contact your representatives in the Senate to share how you want them to vote on the bill. Right now, Senators from both parties have the opportunity to make amendments to the bill. Once the bill passes the Senate the bill will go through the same process in the House of Representatives. The bill might continue to change in the coming days and weeks with amendments, we will try to update this post accordingly.
Following this bill, the Democrats in Congress plan to work with the Biden administration to include some of the pieces from the American Jobs Plan bill that didn’t make this compromise into the federal budget.
What is in this bill?
The bill includes spending in several areas:
- Roads and bridges
- $110 billion for new roads, bridges, and major projects
- Reauthorizes the bipartisan surface transportation program – grants to states for road and transit improvements
- $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement, and restoration
- $11 billion in transportation safety – especially for cyclists and pedestrians
- $1 billion to reconnect communities divided by previous transportation infrastructure
- Public transit and railways
- $39 billion to modernize transit and improve accessibility
- $66 billion to repair and expand Amtrak lines
- $65 billion to expanding high-speed broadband nation-wide
- Upgrading ports and airports
- $17 billion in port infrastructure
- $25 billion in airport improvements
- Electric Vehicles
- $7.5 billion to build a network of electric vehicle chargers
- $7.5 billion to electric and hybrid school buses
- Improving power and water systems
- $55 billion investment in clean drinking water, including funds to replace all lead pipes
- $73 billion to modernizing and upgrading electrical grids and power lines, including research into renewable energy technologies
- $50 billion to improving climate resiliency and cybersecurity of infrastructure
- $21 billion in environmental remediation – cleaning up and preventing pollution from former energy plants, abandoned mines and gas wells
What’s NOT in the bill?
The biggest cut, and the one that has disappointed some more progressive Democrats and activists, is the cuts to the investments in caregiving and childcare. The caregiving investments would have had major benefits for women, women of color who make up the vast majority of caregivers like home health aids, and it was anticipated that the investments would be instrumental to getting women back into the workforce. The American Jobs Plan also had money set aside for gender equitable workforce development programs. Many of these activists are hoping the funding will be included in Senator Sanders’ upcoming budget bill.
The other major set of priorities that have been largely left out of the bill are the climate provisions like the Clean Energy Standards and funding for the Civilian Conservation Corps. These policies were championed by youth climate groups like the Sunrise Movement. While the funding in the infrastructure bill represents one of the largest investments in climate in U.S. history through the funding for climate resiliency and environmental remediation, there are many studies that say a much larger investment is needed to upgrade and protect our infrastructure from climate disasters and to clean up polluted sites. The larger infrastructure bill that Biden had put forward also included funds to weatherize homes, funding that could have helped lower energy costs for millions of Americans.
What is the bill’s impact?
The White House estimates that the package will add 2 million jobs per year over a decade. It is also the largest federal investment in public transit as well as in clean drinking water and waste water in American history. The bill plans to remove every lead pipe in the public water system. According to various studies, there are anywhere from 10 – 30 million Americans who live in areas with water systems that violate safety standards. The White House estimates that these areas include about 10 million households and 400,000 schools.
More than 8 million Americans use public transportation regularly. The investments in public transit will benefit women who make up a slight majority of public transit users, with higher margins in some cities including Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago. People of color, younger people, and low-income people are also more likely to use public transportation.
According to the White House, about 20% of America’s highways and major roads are in poor condition, as well as 45,000 bridges. Poor road and bridge conditions are particularly an issue in rural areas where there aren’t alternative routes for emergency services vehicles and trucking. This issue has come to light recently in places like Memphis, TN which had a major bridge shut down for several months.
Expansion of broadband, particularly in rural areas has been a priority for politicians on both sides of the aisle. During the pandemic access to broadband became an even more important issue, since it is necessary for people to work, attend school, and access healthcare. As of 2020 there are about 21 million people who live in areas without high-speed broadband, most of which are in rural areas. There are also additional people who live in areas with broadband but cannot afford it. The funding for broadband in the infrastructure bill will also go to helping people afford internet access, there are currently about 4 million people enrolled in the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program – the program will be converted to an Affordable Connectivity program and be continued.
How is it paid for?
This is the part of the bill that is most likely to change. Currently, much of the funding for the proposed spending comes from unused COVID-19 relief funds. The remainder of the funding comes from the sale of some government properties and an increase in fees.