• Brandon Colvin

Communities of color will directly benefit from newly signed infrastructure law

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

Today, President Joe Biden signed one of the largest pieces of legislation, in terms of scope of impact and cost, in country's history: the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. As it made its way through Congress over the last several months, the bill has ballooned and shrank many times with its future, at points, uncertain, but now, the $1.2 trillion dollar bill has become the law of the land with the stroke of President Biden's pen.

The legislation is broad-ranging in its reach and is designed to address economic disparities resulting from decades of disinvestment in America’s infrastructure. Communities of color in cities across the U.S. have disproportionately borne the brunt of this disinvestment. Dysfunctional schools and educational systems, inefficient public services, lack of access to digital resources, weak or non-existent environmental protections, food insecurity, and other failures of basic public systems in Black and brown communities have left some of America's most vulnerable citizens without the critical resources necessary to realize the so-called "American Dream."

According to White House officials, the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act aims to make the American Dream more accessible than ever. Over the next five years, the new law will provide for $550 billion of new federal infrastructural investments in roads, bridges, mass transit, rail, airports, ports and waterways across the country. The law also earmarks billions for broadband infrastructure, improvement of the nation's electric grid, and updating America's water systems. Electric vehicle owners will also directly benefit from the law as $7.5 billion will go toward the construction of a nationwide network of plug-in electric vehicle chargers.

But how will communities of color benefit from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act? Here's a look by the numbers.

$65 billion for broadband. Includes funding to expand broadband in rural areas and in low-income communities. $14 billion of the total would help reduce Internet bills for low-income citizens. Black Americans are 9% less likely than their white peers to have high-speed internet. Latino Americans are 15% less likely. About 35% of individuals living on Tribal lands lack access to broadband service.

$55 billion for water infrastructure. Includes $15 billion for lead pipe replacement, $10 billion for chemical and environmental hazard cleanup. The law provides for the largest investment in clean water in American history. There are up to 10 million homes with lead service lines and pipes. Children in up to 400,000 schools and child care facilities are at risk of exposure to lead. Exposure to lead can negatively affect academic performance, and can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life. Families of color nationwide, especially in communities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Newark are at the highest risk for lead exposure at home and in schools.

$39 billion for public transit. Includes funding for upgrades to public transit systems nationwide. The allocation also earmarks money to create new bus routes and help make public transit more accessible to seniors and disabled Americans. African-American and Asian American workers commute by public transit at nearly 4 times the rate of white workers. In New York City, Black residents on average spend an additional 110 minutes per week commuting to work compared to white residents. Similar stats exist for Chicago, where low-income Black commuters spend an additional 70 minutes per commute in comparison to their white counterparts.

Grant funding for reconnecting Black communities. Includes funding to support efforts to reconnect communities, many of which are Black, divided by transportation infrastructure that was built through them, destroying homes, schools, churches and parks. The law will fund planning, design, demolition, and reconstruction of street grids, parks, or other infrastructure. This is in addition to other major grant programs that could fund elements of these projects.

$65 billion for energy efficiency. Includes upgrades to America's power infrastructure and efforts to reduce pollution. School buses produce significant air pollution that is linked to asthma and other respiratory health issues. Funding will replace diesel-powered buses with electric school buses. Black Americans are almost 3 times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than white Americans..

$21 billion for cleanup of brownfields and Superfund sites. Includes funding to create jobs plugging orphan oil and gas wells, cleaning up abandoned mines, and remediating Brownfield and Superfund sites. 26% of Black Americans and 29% of Hispanic Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site, a higher percentage than for Americans overall. Proximity to a Superfund site can lead to elevated levels of lead in children’s blood. Recent studies demonstrate that cleaning up these sites can lead to a decrease in lead blood levels by approximately 13-26%.

$52 billion for climate resilience infrastructure. Includes dollars to help communities build resilience to wildfires and floods through investments in forest management and upgrades to critical flood and natural disaster response infrastructure. Funding will also support state and local infrastructure improvements and emergency response strategies, such as planning grants to develop evacuation routes and upgrade community shelters. The law will also make it easier for low-income families to buy flood insurance.

Check out a more detailed section-by-section accounting of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by following this link: https://www.manchin.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/bipartisan_infrastructure_bill_section_by_section.pdf