House of Representatives Democrats push for complete overhaul of America's infrastructure in new Moving Forward Act
House of Representatives Democrats unveiled a massive $1.5 trillion bill on Monday, June 22, intended to overhaul and rebuild American infrastructure. The 2,300 page bill, titled the Moving Forward Act, allocates billions of dollars to America’s roads, bridges, transit systems, schools, housing, broadband access, and renewable energy initiatives. The bill’s predecessor, the INVEST in America Act, initially provided for $500 billion to support the redevelopment of America’s highways. However, House Democrats hope that the new and much larger legislation will stimulate the economy, create new jobs and address climate change, in addition to addressing America’s highways.
The Moving Forward Act provides substantial funding for transportation but also heavily focuses on creating grants and tax incentives to encourage further development of renewable energy and funding for low income communities and areas.
Improvement of highways, bridges, transit, rail, airports, ports and harbors
The bill provides for over $300 billion to address issues with America’s already existing roads, bridges, harbors and ports. In addition, the bill aims to improve public transportation by making it more accessible, reliable and less harmful to the environment by allocating $100 billion to put more zero-emission buses on the road and over $29 billion to Amtrak to allow for upgrades and expansion of its limited rail network. The Secretary of Transportation would be responsible for providing the funding to programs and would prioritize projects that would reduce traffic congestion and increase road safety. In addition, states will have to meet certain carbon emission requirements to receive funding.
Access to schools and child care
The act also introduces the Reopen and Rebuild Americas Schools Act which would invest $130 billion in schools located in minority and high-poverty areas in order to make facilities and buildings safer and education more accessible. In addition, a 5-year, $10 billion federal investment would address various structural challenges and aim to upgrade child care facilities.
Additional local financing
Due to the difficulties of securing funding for local improvements, the bill permanently reinstates several financing support mechanisms, including Build America Bonds and Advance Refunding Bonds. For example, the Build America Bonds provide federal tax credits or subsidies to create jobs and stimulate the surrounding economy. However, the program expired in 2010 but would be reinstated and available for use under the new legislation. Other programs, such as Private Activity Bonds, which typically provide financing to private-use projects, would be further expanded and made more available. In addition, the bill strives to rehabilitate existing structures and historic buildings by expanding and increasing the New Markets Tax Credit and temporarily increasing and eliminating various restrictive rules for the Historic Tax Credit program.
In an effort to address America’s long-standing issue with access to housing and housing inequality, the Moving Forward Act invests over $100 billion into affordable and public housing to create additional and preserve over 1.8 million homes. In addition to improving immediate access to housing for millions of individuals and families, the investment would create jobs, stimulate the local economy, build resiliency during natural disasters, improve unsafe living conditions, and improve long-term sustainability. The newly established Neighborhood Investment tax credit would also subsidize development costs and encourage rehabilitation of vacant homes or new construction in distressed areas.
Affordable access to broadband
As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, access to reliable internet is not guaranteed and creates various challenges, especially for young students. The new bill would invest $100 billion to encourage the development of broadband internet infrastructure in underserved and unserved communities. Widespread access and competition between broadband companies would ensure access in an efficient and financially sustainable manner. This initiative would also provide equipment and broadband to schools and libraries to assist with closing the “homework gap” for young students.
Improvements to water and wastewater systems
Creators of the bill aim to address safe access to water disparities throughout the country by investing over $25 billion in the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The fund would ensure that all communities have clean and safe drinking water and would help remove dangerous contaminants from water systems. Further, an additional $40 billion would be allocated to new wastewater infrastructure to address stormwater needs, prevent pollution and encourage affordability.
Expansion of clean energy
In response to the continued global push for clean and renewable energy, the Moving Forward Act strives to invest $70 billion to overhaul America’s existing electric grid to accommodate renewable energy, provide expanded renewable energy, develop an electric vehicle charging network and further support energy efficiency throughout the country. In addition, several new tax credits would be introduced to strengthen the country’s commitment to renewable energy and encourage states and individuals to address the climate crisis. For example, tax credits would be available to individuals purchasing zero-emission vehicles and those supporting zero-emission vehicle manufacturing. The bill also promotes new renewable energy infrastructure by incentivizing the development of wind and solar power on public lands.
The summary provided is not exhaustive and the Moving Forward Act provides for additional funding and improvements in multiple other areas. For example, the bill also invests in modernizing America’s current health care infrastructure and the U.S. Postal Service. Further, the expansive legislation would provide funding for research into other future concepts, such as the creation of a hyperloop and autonomous vehicles. Although there has been a strong and consistent push in recent years for improving infrastructure and securing funding for clean energy and addressing climate change across the globe, the bill will likely face strong opposition during its journey. Several Senate Republicans have already shown opposition to the bill, citing concerns of spending more money during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite early signs of opposition, supporters of the legislation believe that the bill will help America address climate change while continuing to create jobs and stimulate the economy.