[co-author: Madison Hughs]
On Monday, November 15, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P. L.
117 – 58), a historic bipartisan piece of legislation that will make available $1.2 trillion in funding for infrastructure programs. The House of Representatives passed the legislation via a bipartisan vote of 228 to 206. While education is not the main focus of the legislation, provisions related to broadband, workforce development and green infrastructure will benefit elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions of education. Akin Gump has outlined some of the most beneficial education-related provisions included in the bill and outlined them below.
Lawmakers recognized the need to develop and train a workforce capable of implementing the various infrastructure projects spurred by the influx in federal spending and included a variety of funding streams to promote workforce development programs. Relevant provisions include:
- – The University Transportation Centers Program “awards grants to a consortium of colleges and universities to advance ‘state-of-the-art’ transportation research and technology, and develops the next generation of transportation professionals” as outlined by the Department of Transportation.
- – Provides funding through the Department of Energy for the establishment grants to institutions of higher education to establish building, training and assessment centers to identify opportunities for optimizing energy efficiency and environmental performance in buildings; to promote the application of emerging concepts and technologies in commercial and institutional buildings; to train engineers, architects, building scientists, building energy permitting and enforcement officials, and building technicians in energy-efficient design and operation; to assist institutions of higher education in training building technicians; to promote research and development for the use of alternative energy sources and distributed generation to supply heat and power for buildings; and to coordinate with community colleges and tribal colleges or universities, among others.
- – Establishes grants through the Department of Energy to provide federal support for career skills training programs under which students obtain an industry-related certification to install energy-efficient buildings technologies through learn-as-you-earn programming.
The shift to virtual learning underscored the importance of expanding access to affordable and accessible high-speed internet for lawmakers. As explained in a press release by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)—who is the Chair of both the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies—a “reliable” high-speed internet connection “means being able to get an education, apply for jobs, or access important benefits like unemployment.” With over $65 billion included for broadband infrastructure, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act hopes to shrink both the digital and homework gaps. Relevant provisions include:
- – Each state shall receive a minimum of $100 million to build-out broadband infrastructure that meets minimum download and upload speeds of 100 and 20 megabits per second, respectively. The remainder of the total amount will be allocated under a formula that considers both the number of total underserved consumers and the number of high-costs unserved locations in the state when compared to other states. States may use funds to competitively award subgrants for connecting eligible community anchor institutions—such as schools, libraries, institution of higher education, public housing organization or community support organization that facilitates greater use of broadband service by vulnerable populations.
- – Competitive grants to be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that promote digital equity inclusion activities and build capacity for increased broadband adoption. Funding could be used for the procurement of laptops and other connected devices.
- – For the construction, improvement or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure, which is defined as “any infrastructure that does not connect directly to an end-user location, including an anchor institution.”
The bill makes funding available for a variety of grant and loan programs to encourage investment in and deployment of energy-efficient improvements and green public transportation programs. Relevant provisions include:
- – Allocates $1 billion per year over five years for the procurement of electric and low emission buses.
- – Authorizes and appropriates $500 million for the Secretary to award a competitive grant to public schools to make energy-efficient, renewable energy upgrades purchase alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure
Portions of this post were pulled from Akin Gump’s Summary of Key Programs and Provisions included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. For a comprehensive overview of all the provisions included in the legislation, please see here.