This afternoon, President Biden will sign the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that will monumentally strengthen a key contributor to public health: infrastructure. $550 billion will be invested into infrastructure projects related to transportation and roadways, climate change, cybersecurity and broadband access, workforce development, drinking water quality, and legacy pollution cleanup. It is also estimated to introduce around 2 million new jobs per year.
As a public health non-profit focused on environmental health and environmental justice in homes, schools and early learning centers, Women for a Healthy Environment applauds Congress for this historic step to ensure healthier spaces for children and families to live, learn, work, play and grow.
For decades, communities have expressed the urgent need to improve and expand infrastructure. Families worried about lead in their drinking water. Students suffering from asthma attacks triggered by irritants like mold or industrial pollution. Residents without running water or certainty about their long term health outcomes after highly toxic contaminants like PFAS enter the water system through firefighting foam backflows into hydrants.
While there are many important issues funded by this act, the following are of note for WHE:
- $3.5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program to assist more low-income households in making their homes energy efficient and in turn lower the burden of utility bills.
- $500 million for the Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program to help low-income households with utility bills.
- $55 billion for water infrastructure, including:
- $15 billion for lead service line replacements at no cost to homeowners
- $10 billion for addressing emerging water and wastewater contaminants, with a focus on PFAS
- $40 million increase in EPA’s annual grant program for lead service line replacements (total will be $100 million annually, for 5 years)
- $200 million to support testing and remediation of lead in water hazards in schools and child care programs
- $10 million for a Lead Inventorying Utilization Grant Pilot Program to assist water systems serving environmental justice communities in developing lead service line inventories
- $5 billion to replace school bus fleets with zero- or lower-emission buses in low-income neighborhoods
- $570 million for the Safe Routes to School Program that will fund efforts to reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools
- $500 million for Energy Efficiency Improvements and Renewable Energy Improvements in high priority schools, including renovations that will improve the indoor air quality for staff and students
- $90 million for a Consumer Recycling and Outreach Grant Program that will include a recycling education curriculum for public schools and a model recycling program toolkit for state and local governments
Today we celebrate President Biden signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and urge Congress to swiftly move to pass the Build Back Better Act that will provide funding for equally necessary steps to respond to climate change at scale, prevent families from having to choose between childcare or housing or employment, and remediate environmental hazards in our homes.