Congress passes $1.9 trillion stimulus with eye on infrastructure

By Jenny LescohierMarch 11, 2021

President Joe Biden is set to sign the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

Congress gave final approval on Wednesday to President Joe Biden’s $1.9-trillion stimulus package, a move met with approval from construction industry officials looking forward to the shot in the arm it might give to U.S. infrastructure.

The National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) stated its support for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, noting several provisions it believes support its members’ efforts to keep their businesses going.

“The damaging fallout from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected how we sustain economic progress,” said Doug Carlson, NUCA’s CEO. “This legislation recognizes the important role the federal government must play in getting this nation back on its feet.

“This new law will speed up coronavirus vaccine distribution to industry employees and their families,” he continued. “And the new resources this bill directs to the utility construction industry will keep clean water flowing and help build out better fiber-optic broadband systems in thousands of American communities.“

Among the bill’s provisions viewed favorably by construction officials are:

  • $10 billion for broadband-related infrastructure projects, including subsidies for schools, libraries, and homeowners to obtain modern Internet access.
  • $350 billion in aid for state, local, and territorial governments, which will help these local entities continue to direct resources to community infrastructure projects or fund new ones. These new resources will assist municipalities without having to choose between critical Covid-19 health services and must-have projects such as new water or wastewater lines.
  • $160 billion for coronavirus vaccine and testing programs to help stop the spread of the virus and end the pandemic. The plan includes resources to create a national vaccine distribution program and offer free shots to all U.S. residents, as well as helping local jurisdictions implement testing programs and expand laboratory capacities. 

Also benefitting construction are $8 billion earmarked for airports to make changes to facilities to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Another $15 billion is allocated for targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loans and $7.25 billion for forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. The legislation would also send a third round of stimulus payments directly to eligible individuals, up to $1,400.

Congress now turns its attention to a larger infrastructure package that must include increased resources for repairing and rebuilding existing water and wastewater systems, as well fortifying our national infrastructure against severe weather events, NUCA stated, noting infrastructure projects provide well-paying jobs and economic growth for America.

The new stimulus bill passed by a vote of 220 to 211, and the House has now sent the measure to Biden for his signature. The legislation is one of the largest injections of federal aid since the Great Depression. 

“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation — the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going — a fighting chance,” Biden said in a statement. 

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