Senate Moves Closer to Voting on the Infrastructure Bill

by Laura Walling, Senior Director of Government Relations, Goodwill Industries International

The Senate spent most of the week reviewing the 2,700-page infrastructure proposal and debating amendments. They will work through the weekend before taking a vote on final passage likely early next week. Some issues remain unresolved, including a pending amendment would allow state and local governments to use up to 30% of their unspent Covid relief funds on infrastructure projects.

The overall legislation includes $110 billion in new spending for roads and bridges, $73 billion for electric grid upgrades, $66 billion for rail and Amtrak, and $65 billion for broadband expansion. It also provides $55 billion for clean drinking water and $39 billion for transit. Provisions of particular interest to Goodwill® include:

  • Nonprofit Energy Efficiency: $50 million for a pilot program to award grants for energy-efficiency materials upgrades to nonprofit buildings
    • Includes a new grant competition – $10 million total for 19 grants to eligible entities to pay the Federal share of associated career skills training programs under which students concurrently receive classroom instruction and on-the-job training for the purpose of obtaining an industry related certification to install energy efficient buildings technologies
  • Broadband expansion
    • Grants to states for deployment: $40 billion to support a formula-based program to states, territories, and DC for broadband deployment. States must have enforceable plans to address all unserved areas before funding projects in underserved areas.
    • Support for rural areas: $2 billion
    • Digital Equity Act: $2.75 billion to establish two grant programs to promote digital inclusion and equity for communities that lack the skills, technologies, and support needed to take advantage of broadband connections.
    • Affordability: $14.2 billion in additional funds to the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which subsidizes service for households meeting need-based criteria. Reduces the subsidy from $50 per month to $30 per month and renames it the Low-Income Broadband Benefit.
  • Apprenticeship Pilot Program for truck drivers
    • employers may establish truck driver apprenticeship programs of 120 hours and 280 hours for drivers under the age of 21 who hold commercial drivers licenses.
  • Updates to surface transportation workforce development, training and education provisions
    • States can allocate surface transportation block grant funding for education and training including: tuition and educational expenses; professional development; apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, and on-the-job-training; universities, community colleges, and vocational schools; outreach and partnerships with industries, economic development organizations, workforce development boards, and labor organizations.
  • Updates to the education and training development and development grant making authorities
    • Require the establishment of a program to make grants to educational institutions or state transportations agencies, in partnership with industry and relevant federal agencies to develop, test, and review new curricula and education programs to train all levels of transportation workers; and implement new curricula and education programs to provide training to meet current and future needs.

The bill also calls for terminating the employee retention tax credit (ERTC) a quarter early, as an attempt to offset funding. The ERTC was a valuable measure for several nonprofits, especially those who were not originally eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.

After the final vote on the infrastructure bill, the Senate will turn immediately to the budget resolution which will set the stage for a reconciliation bill later this year.  Join us in our outreach to lawmakers and help ensure that robust federal funding for workforce development is prioritized in the upcoming reconciliation package. Click here to take action.