After weeks of negotiations, Congress has passed H.R. 133, a bipartisan end of the year package to not only appropriate funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, but to provide much needed economic relief to several sectors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $2.3 trillion package included a key ASCE priority, the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, and a comprehensive energy package that aims to reduce emissions. The $1.4 trillion FY 2021 appropriations provisions fund the government through September 30, 2021 and provides robust funding for several key programs, such a BUILD grants, transit grants, high hazard dams, and the state revolving funds.
In particular, the $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package was a significant legislative victory for Congress, as they had been unable to develop a bipartisan bill for months. The relief portion of the bill also provides additional funding for the vaccine rollout, stimulus checks of $600 per person for those who qualify, and an additional $300 per week in federal supplemental unemployment payments, as well as several measures that directly impact civil engineers. Shortly after passage, ASCE commended Congress for providing relief to American families, state Departments of Transportation (state DOTs), and transit agencies.
The package provides $45 billion for the struggling transportation sector including $16 billion to help airlines maintain their payrolls, $14 billion for mass transit, $10 billion for state highways, $2 billion for airports and $1 billion for Amtrak. ASCE has been a strong advocate for assistance to state DOTs, requesting $37 billion in assistance over the next five years. While Congress’ allocation is short of the full $16 billion request for the current fiscal year, the funding will aid state DOTs to ensure that projects are not further delayed or cancelled. Meanwhile, the popular Paycheck Protection Program will receive another $284 billion for loans for small businesses and the bill clarified a provision to allow businesses to deduct expenses associated with forgiven PPP loans when they file their 2020 taxes. The bill also includes $7 billion to expand broadband access for low-income families and in rural communities.
Next, the inclusion of the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 is a significant ASCE legislative victory and ensures that WRDA maintains its biennial schedule. The bill prioritizes investment in the needs of our water resources infrastructure systems which includes levees, dams, inland waterways, and ports. It also includes a long-term ASCE priority, full expending the $10 billion balance in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund by 2030.
Finally, the bill includes a comprehensive, bipartisan energy package that would aim to reduce emission and invest in more energy efficient infrastructure going forward.
ASCE looks forward to working with the 117th Congress as they continue to focus on our nation’s infrastructure and will urge policymakers to prioritize further investments as a means of economic stimulus going forward.