Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill’s key implications to state and local governments:
- Rare access to special project infrastructure funds, including via competitive grants
- Opportunities for major repairs and modernization of public transportation systems
- Ability to close the digital divide through Broadband Internet expansion
- Safer and cleaner communities via direct or indirect initiatives
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In November 2021, Congress passed the large-scale and wide-reaching Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commonly referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. The bill includes direct allocations of funds toward a variety of projects. It primarily centers on physical infrastructure developments and upgrades, along with technological and digital infrastructure expansion. In addition to dedicated funding, state and local governments can apply for project-based grants.
Much of the bill addresses critical infrastructure discrepancies between urban and rural areas, as well as between lower and higher income brackets.
How the bill impacts your state or local government
The following is an overview of some of the most critical ways the bill impacts your state or local government.
Access to infrastructure project funds
Some of the money earmarked in the bill goes directly to projects that impact citizens in local communities. However, other funds are allocated in the form of grants for which local or state governments must apply. The National Infrastructure Project Assistance grants are an example. This program includes $5 billion in funds for communities to use for projects that best serve their citizens.
The manner in which agencies use the funds is somewhat flexible, as long as it fits with the physical or technological infrastructure purposes of the bill. Consider special projects, facility upgrades, local roads and highways, technology systems, and other related opportunities to best improve the quality of life for the people your agency serves.
Upgraded transportation systems
Transportation systems are among the most expensive for local and state governments to manage. Yet, they are critical to quality of life and commerce in every city and state. The Infrastructure Bill makes it possible for local and state governments to see these key transportation projects implemented with the federal government footing the bill.
According to the White House Fact Sheet on the bill, 20 percent of U.S. highways and 45,000 bridges are in “poor condition.” These structures provide critical routes for inter-city and inter-state commerce, and navigation from home to work for citizens.
Along with reauthorizing a surface repair program, the bill allocates $110 billion toward road, bridge, and other transportation infrastructure repairs. Another $39 billion in funding was approved for modernizing transit systems. The priorities for these projects are to create more equitable transportation options for low-income populations, improve safety, and reduce greenhouse emissions.
One of the most universally affecting parts of the bill was the $65 billion invested on Broadband Internet expansion. The implications for local and state governments from this part of the bill are massive.
Rural, low-income, and minority citizens experience major deficiencies when it comes to reliable internet access. These deficiencies impact employment, education, and overall quality of life. The problems caused by unreliable internet have become glaring during the COVID pandemic, when many students and employees had to complete school or work from home.
For students, challenges include poor access to virtual instruction and challenges in completing homework. Employees face productivity and communication hurdles that impact their employment and employer.
State and local governments can gain direct access to some of the $2.75 billion of the technology portion of the bill’s funding through grants. The digital equity capacity grant program allows states to prepare plans and then request funds to achieve digital equity outcomes. This particular part of the bill also allows certain community institutions to receive grants, including local governments, nonprofit organizations, public housing agencies, and libraries.
The technology and broadband part of the bill has both direct and indirect benefits for state and local governments. Agencies could use funds to improve or modernize office spaces and digital systems for government workers, as well as leverage funds to upgrade the digital infrastructure in local or statewide communities.
Safer and cleaner communities
Many project funds packed into the Infrastructure Bill have a direct or indirect purpose of improving safety and access to clean air in communities across the country. Along with the noted safety and emissions benefits of public transit modernization, $7.5 billion dollars will go toward the development of a national network of electric vehicle chargers. Another $2.5 billion in competitive grants are available for electric charging and fueling stations along alternative fuel corridors.
Emissions reductions are among the key purposes behind the $17 billion of the bill going toward port and railway infrastructure, and the $25 billion going to airport repairs and maintenance. Sixty-five billion dollars is going into the development of clean energy transmission across America. Legacy pollution at Superfund and brownfield sites is behind a $21 billion cleanup investment.
Cities dealing with particular challenges from pollution and emissions may gain favor in competitive infrastructure grants for special projects aimed at combating them.
Use available funds to upgrade communications infrastructure
The Infrastructure Bill is intended to physically and technologically build up areas that are underdeveloped or underserved based on their existing physical and digital infrastructures.
The expansion of reliable broadband internet is among the most powerful aspects of the bill in terms of the number of cities, states, and people affected. Your state or local government agency has the unique opportunity to set up modern communications systems that can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your services to citizens.
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Originally published Mar 22, 2022, updated Dec 30, 2022