CHN: Major Infrastructure Investment Signed Into Law

On Nov. 15 President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill containing $550 billion in new infrastructure spending. The House passed (228-206) the bill in a late-night session on Friday, Nov. 5, with 13 Republicans joining all but 6 Democrats in supporting the measure; the Senate passed it (69-30) with 19 Republicans joining all Democrats and Independents on August 10. The House had previously tied passage of IIJA (H.R. 3684) to the passage of Build Back Better Act as leverage to get the broader social and climate spending bill passed. An agreement was reached between the progressives and moderates in the evening of Nov. 5 to pass IIJA and postpone a vote on the Build Back Better Act until the week of Nov. 15 (see related article in this Human Needs Report for more on this).

The law includes $65 billion to make high-speed internet more accessible and affordable, especially in low-income and rural areas; $55 billion towards guaranteeing safe drinking water by replacing the nation’s lead service lines, including in Tribal Nations and disadvantaged communities that need it most (additional funding for this purpose is in the Build Back Better Act); $39 billion in new spending to modernize public transit (in total, the package includes the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history, according to the White House); $110 billion in new funding for highways, bridges, and roads; $65 billion to upgrade the nation’s power grid and invest in clean energy transmission; $7.5 billion to build out a national network of electric vehicle chargers in the U.S.; and more.

According to the National Skills Coalition, the law funds workers’ access to digital skills in a way that’s consistent with the bipartisan Digital Equity Act introduced by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), meaning local areas could support workers’ digital reskilling and upskilling necessary to succeed in jobs that are evolving as businesses reopen and expand during our economic recovery. It includes over $1 billion in occupational-specific skills training grants administered by the Departments of Energy and Transportation. According to Friends Committee on National Legislation, the bill includes a “Reconnecting Communities Program,” which would provide $1 billion in competitive grants to remove or retrofit highways that run through lower income neighborhoods; it also allocates $11 billion for infrastructure needs in Indian Country, representing the largest investment Tribal Nations have seen in American history.

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth says the law will create millions of good-paying jobs. AFSCME President Lee Saunders said of the bill in a statement, “It will improve quality of life for all of us – everyone who drives on our roads, who rides public transit, who buys goods that pass through our ports, who depends on clean drinking water and a reliable power grid.”