How the New Infrastructure Bill Affects the Nation
Updated: Dec 1, 2021
On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan into law. The plan aims to improve the nations aging infrastructure. Money from this package intends to rebuild the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges and has money for transit, railways, broadband, airports, waterways, electric vehicles, power and water systems, and environmental remediation.
This bill is the largest hard infrastructure development in the United States since highways were initially funded in the 1950s. With this new bill, it has the potential to modernize a vast majority of the nation’s systems while simultaneously creating opportunities both in the workforce and in the contracting landscapes across the country.
This historic investment is essentially a down payment on the American economy. How local and state governments manage and distribute the funds, as well as other subsequent investments over the next few years, will be an important factor in the body of work that this bill promises for the American people.
Here is what you need to know about the Infrastructure Bill.
Who does the bill affect the most?
The infrastructure bill is a shared interested bill, meaning it isn’t necessarily targeted at individuals, individual states, or individual stakeholders; the bill is targeted at the American landscape with the beneficiaries being all 50 states.
Many states and communities currently have programs that lack the vital funding and resources required to implement ideas on improvements. For example, communities that lack local resources to build Wi-Fi structured access negatively affect the entire community. This same concept applies to roads, pipes, water systems, and community-dependent resources which is why this bill benefits the entire nation and not individual groups.
The implementation of this bill means that Americans will be able to travel from city to city using local transportation systems and from state to state with uninterrupted mechanisms. There will also be an ecosystem of energy with battery recharging stations that incentivize lowering our collective footprint on the nation. These are all fundamental values for everybody in the country.
Who oversees distributing the money and deciding where it is spent?
Although authorization of finances comes from Congress, it was senators, representatives, and congresspeople who fought for specific considerations to pass the legislation. The considerations that were allowed ensured that their respective communities received certain benefits, thus causing specific carve-outs to the bill.
For example, native tribal organizations will receive specific dollars for various investments while most states have been allocated funding budgets for specific bodies of work. However, with the overall processes in place, funds are received by state agencies, and then the governor's office along with their procurement offices work to meet the criteria.
Aside from the carve-outs, the money distributed is typically allocated based on the size of the state and where the needs are going to be met most expeditiously. What we will soon start seeing is big buckets of dollars sliced up in ways that reflect some of those compromises, but every dollar is still an investment for entire communities.
How is this bill equitable for communities of color?
The infrastructure bill uses language designed to prioritize equity in its distribution. In its core language, the legislation talks about making sure investments are distributed across communities of color—benefitting low-income neighborhoods as well as ensuring that diverse contractors participate—and that job creation includes apprenticeship opportunities and utilization.
However, it truly boils down to whether states are prepared to ensure compliance around equity. While the language is incredibly supportive of inclusion design, once states begin to receive a large influx of cash to the tune of billions of dollars, they will be responsible for deploying the money in accordance with what the legislation calls for instead of going about business as usual.
There are already several states and state leaders preparing guidance for how procurement will be managed within their agencies because the responsibility to diversify the funds is critical.
What needs to happen for funds to be distributed equitably by each state?
The primary mechanism that needs to happen is compliance. The U.S. current model of compliance relies on reactive responsiveness to issues. When a complaint is made that something is not done fairly, the government responds, and oversight kicks in.
The strongest play that any state could make is proactively creating compliance structures in their procurement strategies so that when they purchase something, the obligation to meet reporting criteria and mandates demanded by the dollar is not just a simple, good-faith effort. To maximize the diversity of the dollars spent, the governor or procurement office must set standards that require that everyone pay attention to the language used within agreements.
How can municipalities ensure that they are putting the funds to the best use possible?
Most cities already have a plan for their dollars. The reason that the dollars are allocated in the way they are is because a certain community or state has expressed a desire to do something specific or they have made requests related to funding structures. Now, they have the opportunity to adapt some of those requests to meet the criteria that the state or the federal government puts on the funding.
The best utilization of the municipal dollar is being purposeful of where something will be built, where a business will be disrupted, and where access will become limited. All of this creates a disturbance that needs a countering balance to allow local city municipalities to create opportunity through that disruption by using these dollars in the most surgical way possible.
How can Intelligent Partnerships help with the Infrastructure Bill?
The investment of these dollars by state agencies and local municipalities is critical in terms of the opportunity that they are designed to create. In other words, the Biden Administration has purposely included language in the legislation that allows leaders to make decisions about how they want to spend this money and what rules they will place to make sure it reaches the broadest swath of communities.
Whether it is rural communities, farming areas, low-income communities, or big cities, organizations like Intelligent Partnerships stand at the ready to help leaders assess how to design the procurement and inclusion strategies that they will utilize for these purposes.
If you or your organization needs help navigating the Infrastructure Bill, Intelligent Partnerships can help. Please contact us at 877-234-9737 or visit our website at ipartnerships.net.