This week Congress passed the American Rescue Plan – a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package which provides critical relief across the economy and our nation’s infrastructure. This legislation is President Biden’s first legislative victory and the third round of federal COVID-19 relief.
Following the budget reconciliation process the original version of the relief package passed the House last week, but the Senate amended and approved the legislation on a party-line vote this past Saturday. The amended legislation then headed back to the House where it passed 220-211 and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. For the civil engineering profession, Congress provided the following relief amounts:
Transportation and Infrastructure:
- $30.5 billion for grants to transit agencies for use for operating expenses, including payroll and personal protective equipment costs. This includes $26.1 billion for Urbanized Area Formula Grants, $2.21 billion for urban and rural area grantees that require additional assistance due to the pandemic, $1.7 billion for Capital Investment Grants, $281 million in operating assistance formula grants for states to support rural transit agencies in areas with fewer than 50,000 people, and $100 million for intercity bus services to support essential connections in rural areas.
- $8 billion for airports and airport concessions. This includes $6.4 billion for costs related to operations, personnel, and combating the spread of COVID-19 at airport facilities, $800 million for sponsors of primary airports and concession relief, $600 million to ensure all airports receive 100% federal cost-share for any airport improvement grant awarded to them in fiscal year (FY) 2021, and $100 million to non-primary airports to aid in the costs related to the pandemic.
- $1.7 billion for Amtrak in FY2021. This includes $970 million to support the Northeast Corridor and $730 million to support the National Network.
State and Local Government:
- $350 billion to help states, counties, cities and tribal governments cover increased expenditures, replenish lost revenue and mitigate economic harm from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- $195.3 billion to states and the District of Columbia.
- $130.2 billion to Local Governments including $65.1 billion for counties, $45.6 billion for metropolitan cities, $19.5 billion for towns with fewer than 50,000 people.
- $4.5 billion to U.S. territories and $20 billion to tribal governments.
- Tax credit parity between public and private sector employees.
- $122.7 billion for the existing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to remain available through Sept. 30, 2023.
- $40 billion through the existing Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund.
- $50 billion to the Disaster Relief Fund for COVID-19 and other disaster assistance under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This assistance is meant to improve vaccine rollout efforts under FEMA.
- $100 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants to state and local emergency management agencies to help communities address COVID-19 and facilitate vaccine rollout.
Technology, Broadband, and Cyber:
- $7.2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund to reimburse schools and libraries for internet access and connected devices.
- $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans. The American Rescue Plan appropriates $7.25 billion in additional funding and does not extend the PPP’s current application period which is scheduled to close on March 31.
- Restores the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) and provides a $10 billion authorization through September 30, 2030. Roughly $5 billion is available to states to be distributed by formula based on 2020 unemployment numbers, $1.5 billion is provided for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses, $1 billon for incentives program to encourage investments in socially and economically disadvantaged businesses, $1 billion is included for an incentives program to encourage investments in socially and economically disadvantaged businesses, $500 million is directed to tribal governments, $ 500 million is provided to minority businesses, and $500 million is made available for technical assistance to states for legal, accounting, and financial advisory services.
ASCE applauds Congress’ leadership in providing much needed COVID-19 relief across our nation. As the White House and Congress begin taking the next steps on long-term economic recovery, we continue to urge lawmakers to make infrastructure a priority.
In ASCE’s 2021 Infrastructure Report Card our accumulative grade was a “C-.” This mediocre grade is due in large part to our 10-year $2.5 trillion investment deficit. Congress can improve our nation’s grade by developing comprehensive legislation that prepares for a sustainable and resilient future, prioritize asset management and operations and maintenance (O&M) needs, and restoring a strong federal partner in infrastructure investment. Now is the time for action and ASCE government relations continues to urge for comprehensive infrastructure investment.