The “Build Back Better” Infrastructure Plan
As America works to recover from the devastating challenges of a deadly pandemic, an economic crisis, a reckoning on race that reveals deep disparities—the nation needs an economy, a government, and a culture that work for everyone.
Following the party-line passage of the Covid-19 Recovery Act, Part 2 of the Recovery Act—the “Infrastructure Bill”—aims to fulfill those goals by creating millions of jobs with an American Jobs Plan that benefits ALL Americans—not just those already at the top of the income and access scales. Like great projects of the past, the American Jobs Plan aims to rebuild and expand the US economy, create millions of jobs, and mobilize the country to meet the greatest challenges of our time.
“It has never been more important to invest in strengthening our infrastructure and competitiveness, and to create the good-paying jobs of the future. It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges. It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America,” said President Joe Biden in introducing the act.
Here’s an overview of what Biden’s American Jobs and Infrastructure Plan aims to accomplish.
Fix Highways, Rebuild Bridges, and Upgrade Ports, Airports, and Transit Systems
One in every five miles, or 173,000 total miles, of America’s highways and major roads needs repair, as do 45,000 bridges. The plan proposes not only “fixing them first” but “fixing them right,” and includes a new Safe Streets program to reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians.
Our airports lag far behind our competitors’ facilities. The infrastructure plan calls for a major investment in our airports, including funding for the Airport Improvement Program, and upgrades to FAA assets to ensure safe and efficient air travel. The plan also calls for investments in inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry, and ferries, all of which are essential to our nation’s freight. This part of the plan includes a Healthy Ports program to mitigate the cumulative impacts of air pollution on neighborhoods near ports—which are often located near communities of color.
Deliver Clean Drinking Water
Across the country, pipes and treatment plants are aging, some long past their useful life, and polluted drinking water is endangering the public’s health. An estimated six to ten million homes still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines. The president’s water infrastructure plan will replace 100% of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines and invest in rural small water systems and household wells and wastewater systems, including drainage fields.
Renew Electrical Grid(s) and Deliver High-Speed Broadband to All Americans
As the recent Texas power outages demonstrated, our aging electric grid needs urgent modernization. The infrastructure plan will create a more resilient power grid, lower energy bills for Americans, improve air quality and public health outcomes, and create good jobs on a path to achieving 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035. Along the way, it will create well-paying jobs with labor protections and the right to bargain collectively.
Build, Preserve, and Retrofit More than Two Million Homes and Commercial Buildings to Address the Affordable Housing Crisis
There is a severe shortage of affordable housing options in America. The president’s plan dedicates funding to invest in more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live from existing stock; to produce, preserve, and retrofit another million affordable, resilient, accessible, energy-efficient, and electrified rental housing units; build and rehabilitate more than 500,000 homes for homebuyers. The plan also eliminates exclusionary zoning and harmful land-use policies, addresses longstanding public housing capital needs, and puts skilled-trade workers to work upgrading homes and businesses to save families money.
Modernize Our Nation’s Schools and Early Learning Facilities
Too many students attend schools and childcare centers that are run-down, unsafe, and pose health risks. These conditions are dangerous for our kids and exist disproportionately in schools with a high percentage of low-income students and students of color. Even before Covid-19, 43% of parents reported struggling to find an adequate childcare facility for their children. President Biden is calling for the infrastructure plan to upgrade existing childcare facilities and build new ones in areas of the greatest need; modernize public schools across the country; and invest in community college infrastructure, facilities, and programs.
Upgrade VA Hospitals and Federal Buildings
While the median private-sector hospital in the US is approximately 11 years old, those run by the US Department of Veterans Affairs have a median age of 58 years. The plan provides for the modernization of VA hospitals and utilizes the vast tools of federal procurement to purchase low-carbon materials for construction and clean power for these newly constructed VA hospitals and other federal buildings.
Creating Jobs and Raising Wages and Benefits for Essential Home Care Workers
Long before Covid-19, the United States faced a caregiving crisis. In addition to having to care for children, millions of American families feel the financial burden of caring for aging relatives and family members with disabilities. The Biden plan will put $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities. The plan will expand access to long-term care services under Medicaid, establish an infrastructure to create well-paying jobs in caregiving, and train Americans for the jobs of the future as technology changes the nature of caregiving.
The Made in America Tax Plan
The 2017 tax law, passed by Congress after midnight on Dec. 20, 2017 with solid Republican-party support and unanimous opposition from Congressional Democrats, only made an unfair system worse. Alongside the American Jobs Plan, President Biden is releasing a Made in America Tax Plan to make sure corporations pay their fair share and to encourage job creation at home. The plan will ensure that corporations won’t be able to get away with paying little or no tax by shifting jobs and profits overseas. It will reward investment at home, stop profit shifting, and ensure other nations won’t gain a competitive advantage by becoming tax-havens. The Made in America Tax Plan would fully pay for the American Jobs Plan within 15 years.
Other Initiatives in the Biden Jobs Plan
- Establish the United States as a leader in climate science, innovation, and R&D
- Eliminate racial and gender inequities in research and development and science, technology, engineering, and math
- Retool and revitalize American manufacturers and small businesses
- Strengthen manufacturing supply chains for critical goods
- Protect Americans from future pandemics
The American Jobs Plan is designed to build a just, equitable outcome not only for those who have put in a lifetime of work, but to the next generation of workers who have known only an America of rising inequality and shrinking opportunity that have intensified over the past 40 years—and especially the last four years. Every American—every citizen, immigrant, DACA youth; every senior; every working man or woman; every child—deserves to enjoy America’s promise in full. The nation’s leaders have a responsibility, or in the words of the founding fathers, a “sacred duty,” to make this happen.