Democrats Announce $1.5T Infrastructure Plan


United States House Democrats introduced a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill last week, calling for an increase in funding for road and bridge repairs, in addition to funding for clean drinking water.

The legislation has been titled the Moving Forward Act.

Government Infrastructure Funding

Last year, President Donald J. Trump and Democratic congressional leaders announced a similar plan focusing on roads, bridges, highways, water, power grids and other various infrastructure. However, the plan called for $2 trillion and no agreement had been made on how it would be paid for.

Built on Trump’s 2018 plan, which focused on $1.5 trillion in new spending on infrastructure over the course of a decade, paid largely for by state, local and private investments, including $200 billion in federal funding in hopes to leverage more than six times as much new revenue from those sources.

Due to an ongoing investigation into the President at the time, the infrastructure plan was never settled.

Despite the plan’s failure, 2020 has been reported to see a few instances of funding for its infrastructure projects. The first occurring in January, when Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao, announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity totaling $906 million in grants through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grants program.

Eligible projects include highway freight corridors on the National Highway Freight Network, highway or bridge projects on the National Highway System and projects expected to increase capacity on Interstates and other intermodal or rail projects.

The following month, U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-New York; Garret Graves, R-Louisiana; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; and Darin LaHood, R-Illinois introduced the Bridge Investment Act—a bipartisan bill that intends to invest $20 billion into repairing the nation’s failing infrastructure.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that there is $123.1 billion in bridge repair backlog, which includes $17.3 billion estimated for rural and local bridge repairs and improvements that are not listed on the federal-aid highway network.

Over the course of five years, the legislation intends to create a competitive grant program that will:

  • Rehabilitate, improve or replace bridges of all sizes, including local and rural bridges located off the National Highway System;
  • Supplement a new federal formula funding in an infrastructure package with the $20 billion to address the bridge repair backlog;
  • Establish a non-partisan, standardized evaluation process for proposed projects and expected benefits, ensuring fair funding for projects across the country—regardless of project size;
  • Enable states and local governments with transportation function, federal land management agencies and Native American tribes to apply for the grants;
  • Streamline repairs of medium and small projects by bundling into a single application;
  • Allow large projects to receive multi-year grant agreements; and
  • Create American jobs by requiring compliance with Davis-Bacon, “Buy America” and other standard requirements for federal-aid highway projects.

Overall, the program will invest $20 billion, but if leveraged by state and local contributions, could increase to $40 billion worth of projects.

The same month, the United States Department of Transportation announced through a NOFO that it would be applying for $1 billion in discretionary grant funding for the Fiscal Year 2020 through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Transportation Discretionary grants program.

According to USDOT, the BUILD grants are slated to be awarded to planning and capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure. The DOT expects to award 50% grant funding to rural projects that deliver positive benefits for the surrounding communities and are consistent with the ROUTES initiative.

In March, $225 million in discretionary grant funding was been made available by the USDOT through the Port Infrastructure Development Program, which was made available through the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020. The act also reserves $200 million for grants to coastal seaports and Great Lakes ports.

The USDOT intends to award the available funding on a competitive basis to projects that are found to be in relation to coastal seaports, inland river ports, and Great Lakes ports. The minimum award size is $1 million, however federal cost share is not to exceed 80%.

At the end of the month, Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill (CARES Act) aimed to help American citizens experiencing lay-offs, companies suffering financially and the health care system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As listed in the Senate Appropriations Committee, highlights of the package include:

  • $117 Billion for Hospitals and Veterans Health Care;
  • $45 Billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund;
  • $16 Billion for the Strategic National Stockpile;
  • $4.3 Billion for the Centers for Disease Control; and
  • $11 Billion for Vaccines, Therapeutics, Diagnostics and Other Medical Needs

These numbers are then broken down into the following subcommittees:

  • $34.9 billion to Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies;
  • $3.1 billion to Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies;
  • $10.5 billion to Defense;
  • $221.4 million to Energy and Water Development;
  • $1.82 billion to Financial Services and General Government;
  • $45.9 billion to Homeland Security;
  • $2 billion to Interior, Environment and Related Agencies;
  • $172.1 billion to Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies;
  • $93 million to the Legislative Branch;
  • $19.6 billion to Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies;
  • $1.1 billion to State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs; and
  • $48.5 billion to Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies.

In breaking down the allotted funding, the Engineering News-Record has calculated that while more than 80% of the package will go to state, local governments and communities, infrastructure and construction could be eligible for roughly $43 billion of that total.

Through the CARES Act, USDOT later announced in April that $25 billion in federal funding allocations for the nation’s transportation systems and $1 billion in funding for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) had been made available.

Other efforts made in April include the introduction of two pieces of draft legislation that would authorize the investment of $19.5 billion in the nation’s water infrastructure. The proposed legislation includes America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020.

The bills were drafted by Environmental and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and Senator Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and aims to provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with funding for flood protection, ecological restoration and increased water storage.

In May, the United States Department of Agriculture announced that it would be investing $281 million in rural communities for water and wastewater infrastructure.

In this round of funding, the USDA is splitting the $281 million between 106 projects in 36 states and Puerto Rico. The funds are being provided through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program, which provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.

And last month, the United States Senate returned from recess with the intent to begin discussions on the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act. The HEROES Act provides an additional $3 trillion to states and cities.

In the infrastructure sectors, the bill outlines that:

  • $945 million would be used for Capital Improvement Project grants for hospitals and other critical infrastructure;
  • $140 million would be used to expand broadband infrastructure and information technology for telehealth and electronic health record system purposes;
  • $1 billion would cover expenses for grants for core public health infrastructure state, local, territorial, or tribal health departments as described in section 30550 of division C of the Act; and
  • $15 billion would be used for “Highway Infrastructure Programs.”

Earlier this month, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee revealed a $494 billion surface transportation bill, which aims to aid states and cities struggling from the effects of COVID-19 before addressing climate change issues.

The legislation plans to provide $8.35 billion to help states achieve climate-conscience goals, in addition to:

  • $6.25 billion for resilient infrastructure;
  • $60 billion for rail investments;
  • $83.1 billion for state and local transportation services and $22 billion for associated salary and operating expenses;
  • $319 billion for highways;
  • $105 billion to transit;
  • $4.6 billion for highway safety; and
  • $5.3 billion for motor carrier safety.

The legislation also requires that states spend 20% of their NHPP and Surface Transportation Program dollars on bridge repair and rehabilitation projects—roughty $28 billion over the course of five years.

Moving Forward Act

According to reports, the Moving Forward Act is a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, aimed at providing:

  • $100 billion for broadband;
  • $100 billion for low-income schools;
  • $100 billion in funding for public housing;
  • $70 billion for clean energy projects;
  • $30 billion to upgrade hospitals;
  • $25 billion for drinking water; and
  • $25 billion for the postal service, among others.

“Republicans have been a bit critical at points during the mark up and saying this is Green New Deal 2.0,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon). “This is the application of the principles of the Green New Deal. And this proves that we can both deal with climate change, fossil fuel pollution and actually create millions of new high-paying American jobs. That is the promise of this legislation.”

Although the plan is ready to move forward for voting prior to the July 4 recess, Democrats have yet to outline how the bill will be paid for. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has pointed out though, that with the Federal Reserve approval to keep interest rates near zero, “there's never been a better time for us to go big.”

Forbes reports that COVID-19 has caused the unemployment claims to reach 1.5 million, lower than its peak of 6.9 million in March but brings the total number to 45 million. While the legislation is hoped to be passed, as Trump has been pushing for an infrastructure bill, some suspect that it will hit obstacles moving forward with Republicans in Congress.

View all of PaintSquare Daily News' COVID-19 coverage, here.


Tagged categories: COVID-19; Department of Transportation (DOT); Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; President Trump; Program/Project Management; Project Management

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