WHAT MIGHT AN INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE LOOK LIKE?
The 2020 (and 2021) federal elections have created a scenario where an infrastructure package is more likely than previously thought. With Democrats controlling the House, Senate, and White House, Congress could use the relatively arcane budget reconciliation process (a detailed memo on this process can be found here) to pass a large bill combining an infrastructure package, tax items, and issues relating to green energy and climate change. This is likely to follow action on additional efforts to pass more COVID-19 relief.
While we do not know exactly what this may look like, it could build off what the House proposed during the last Congress, the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2 in the 116th Congress) plus additional items from Biden’s Build Back Better plan as well as the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ Action Plan.
The Biden Build Back Better plan, while light on specifics, is larger than the Moving Forward Act with a $2 trillion price tag and is also broader, with investments suggested to help reduce the carbon footprint of the auto industry, the agricultural sector, and the power sector.
The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis produced a 547-page Action Plan that is much broader than just infrastructure, but also complements the other two plans with a variety of climate policy recommendations, many of which are focused on improving community resilience.
Based on prior experience, most federal infrastructure investments are likely to utilize existing programs and funding streams. However, some new programs and opportunities will also be created.
Below are summarized some of the more interesting or new items from the Moving Forward Act, which of the three proposals has the most specificity thus far to help you think about local ideas and opportunities should this type of bill pass. It is important now to consider what projects or plans you can advance locally over the next few months to prepare for such an infrastructure package. We will have more to share, but hopefully this jumpstarts your internal discussions.
For surface transportation projects, the Moving Forward Act proposes a 46 percent increase over current investment levels, much of which is provided to states and local governments via formula programs. The highway portion of the Senate version of the surface transportation bill that was developed in 2018 (America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act, S. 2302) even proposed to increase spending by 27 percent above current levels. Most transportation programs are “federally funded, but state administered.” With that in mind, it is important to be well positioned in various locally created transportation improvement programs to benefit from these potential boosts in programmatic funding.
Surface Transportation Grant Examples
Creates a new apportioned program ($6.25b for FY22-25) to fund resilience and emergency evacuation needs.
Projects of National and Regional Significance (known currently as INFRA): Provides more than $9 billion over the life of the bill for large highway, transit, and freight projects. This is more than double the existing authorization.
Community Transportation Investment Grants: $600 million per year for local government applicants. Broadens eligibility for highway and transit projects, with project evaluation done in a manner that will limit political decision-making.
Electric Vehicle Charging and Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Grants: $350 million per year for grants for electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Focuses funding on designated Alternative Fuel Corridors and projects that demonstrate the most effective emissions reductions.
Community Climate Innovation Grants: $250 million per year to non-State applicants for highway, transit, and rail projects, provided they reduce GHGs.
Metro Performance Program: A total of $750 million over the life of the bill for funding allocations directly to MPOs to carry out projects selected by the MPO. The Secretary selects applicants to be accepted into the program based on their technical capacity to manage Federal funds.
Surface Transportation Single-Year Grants Examples
Gridlock Reduction Grants: $250 million, of which half is set aside for freight grants. Grants will be awarded for reducing urban congestion in large metro areas, with an emphasis on operational, technological, and mode shift strategies.
Rebuild Rural Grants: $250 million for rural communities to address needs on and off the Federal-aid system. Focuses funding on safety, state of good repair, and access to jobs and services.
Active Transportation Connectivity Grants: $250 million for pedestrian and bicycle networks and spines and related planning, including complete streets planning.
Commercial Motor Vehicle Parking Grants: $250 million to construct and improve truck parking facilities.
Transit Grant Examples
$100 million in annual grant funds to tackle larger city street congestion that slows down buses through support of items like bus-only lanes and priority signaling.
The State of Good Repair and Lo-No grant programs, among other programs would be continued.
Rail Grant Examples
A new Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization, and Expansion (PRIME) grant program devoted entirely to passenger rail improvements and expansion. Authorized at $19 billion over five years, it will fund capital projects that improve the state of good repair, optimize performance, and expand intercity rail passenger transportation.
Reauthorization of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program, which funds passenger and freight rail projects, at $7 billion over five years – an increase of $5.8 billion over FAST Act levels. New eligibility to allow commuter rail authorities to compete for funds.
Grade Crossing Separation Grants: Authorizes $2.5 billion over five years to build or improve grade crossing separations.
Water Infrastructure Investments
Funding authorizations for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program totaling $40 billion ($8 billion annually) for fiscal years 2021 through 2025. Mandates that some of those funds be granted rather than simply loaned.
Mandates that a certain percentage of the Clean Water SRF be used on green infrastructure, water or energy efficiency improvements, or other environmentally innovative projects. Potentially eligible projects include, but are not limited to, replacing inefficient pumps or pumping systems, rain gardens, permeable pavements, green roofs, bioswales, and rainwater harvesting.
$1 billion for a new grant program for local governments to carry out watershed, wet weather, and resiliency projects to assess and address future risks posed by manmade or natural disasters, including extreme weather events and sea-level rise
$600 million for a new grant program to carry out alternative water source projects, like stormwater reclamation
Increase the authorization of appropriations for sewer overflow and stormwater reuse grants under section 221 of the Clean Water Act to $400 million annually ($2 billion total) through fiscal year 2025, as well as provides for a greater Federal cost share of projects that serve financially distressed communities.
Reauthorizes a total of $1 billion in appropriations for grants to States to address nonpoint sources of pollution.
Reauthorizes a total of $250 million in Federal appropriations for EPA’s National Estuaries Program (Section 320 of the Clean Water Act) for fiscal years 2022 through 2026.
Establish a PFAS Infrastructure Grant Program to aid water utilities to pay for capital costs associated with treatment for PFAS.
$3.5 billion each year for fiscal year for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. Apart from the past uses of the program, funds may also be used to deploy infrastructure for delivering alternative fuels or for the use of alternative fuels.
Establishment of Home Energy Savings Retrofit Rebate Program for fiscal years 2021 through 2025: Requires DOE to establish a Home Energy Savings Retrofit Rebate Program to provide rebates to homeowners for retrofits that achieve home energy savings, like insulation and air sealing or replacement of a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.
Funds to improve the energy efficiency of public buildings and schools.
Funds to expand the existing weatherization program.
Funds a Clean School Bus Program.
A pilot program to electrify certain refrigerated vehicles.
Rebates for electric vehicle supply equipment.
Program to provide $2 billion each year for fiscal years 2021 through 2025 for grants to State and local governments and private entities to electrify the transportation sector. Also provides $2.5 billion each year over the same period for large-scale projects.
$200 annual grant program for solar installations located in, or that serve, low-income and underserved areas: Directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a program to provide loans and grants to eligible entities to construct or install community solar facilities or solar generating facilities to serve multi-family affordable housing.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Projects
Total of $15 billion to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
$10 billion for the construction account
$3 billion of this is for the Inland Waterways System
$500 million would be for environmental infrastructure (Section 219) projects
$5 billion in Operation and Maintenance funding
Bureau of Reclamation Projects
· $3.5 billion for western water infrastructure and drought resiliency measures, including:
o $750 million for sustainable, multi-benefit water storage projects
o $500 for water recycling and reuse projects
o $260 million for innovative water desalination projects
$3 billion coastal resiliency fund managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide funding for shovel-ready coastal restoration projects that restores habitat for fish and wildlife or assists in adaptation to the impacts of climate change.
Living Shoreline Grant Program: authorizes $50 million per year for grants for living shoreline projects through NOAA to increase climate resilience of shorelines.
Public Housing Capital Fund: $70 billion to the public housing capital fund.
$5 billion to the National Housing Trust Fund.
$5 billion for the HOME program.
$2.5 billion for the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program.
$2.5 billion for the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program
$10 billion for a new competitive allocation of the Community Development Block Grant program
$500 million a year for a zero emissions ports infrastructure program through fiscal year 2030 to assist ports and port users with replacing cargo handling equipment, port harbor craft, drayage trucks, and more with zero emissions equipment and technology.
An additional $50 million a year for fiscal years 2021 through 2025 for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act specifically to reduce port emissions.
$4 billion per year for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for fiscal years 2021 through 2025.
Supplemental funding for the AIP in the following amounts to be distributed based on airport passenger enplanement levels, with 12 percent in total set-asides for cargo airports, general aviation, reliever, and nonprimary commercial service airports, and airport projects that increase climate resiliency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate airplane noise, among other things:
o $3 billion for FY 2021
o $3.25 billion for FY 2022
o $3.50 billion for FY 2023
o $3.75 billion for FY 2024
o $4 billion for FY 2025
Broadband benefit program that entitles households with a member who qualifies for Lifeline, free/reduced school lunch, or are recently unemployed to receive a $50 benefit, or a $75 benefit on tribal lands, to put toward the monthly price of internet service. Internet service providers would be required to provide eligible households service at a price reduced by an amount up to the benefit, and those providers can seek a reimbursement from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for such amount. The program is appropriated $9 billion.
Expansion of Broadband Access in Unserved Areas and Areas with Low-Tier or Mid-Tier Service: Appropriates $80 billion to fund competitive bidding systems to build broadband infrastructure. Seventy-five percent of the funding is to be used for a nationwide system of competitive bidding to fund broadband deployment in unserved areas, defined as areas with service below 25/25 Megabits per second (Mbps), and areas with low-tier service, defined as areas with service between 25/25 and 100/100 Mbps. The remaining funds (25 percent) are to be distributed among States, by population, for States to conduct statewide systems of competitive bidding for broadband deployment in unserved areas, areas with low-tier service, and to unserved anchor institutions (anchor institutions with speeds less than 1 gigabit per 1,000 users).
Establishes an option for state revolving loan funds under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for hazard mitigation projects.
Brownfields: Increases and extends funding for the Brownfields program.
Lots of tax and energy credits, including improvements to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.
$25 billion for the Postal Service for the modernization of postal infrastructure and operations, including through capital expenditures to purchase delivery vehicles, processing equipment, and other goods. The section reserves $6 billion for the purchase of new vehicles.