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House Passes Landmark $1.5 Trillion Highway and Infrastructure Measure

The bill would also tackle longstanding broadband initiatives including Internet access, distance learning and telehealth programs

Washington, July 1, 2020
Tags: Congress

(Honolulu, HI) – Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) announced passage today by the U.S. House of Representatives of H.R. 2, the “Moving Forward Act”, a $1.5 trillion initiative to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems.

“The measure is more than just a plan to rebuild our transportation infrastructure,” said Case, who co-sponsored the bill.  “It also commits us to filling out the chronic gaps in the ‘information superhighway’ – the Internet.”

“With this bill, we are looking to finally deliver Internet access to all parts of the country by investing $100 billion to promote competition for broadband Internet infrastructure to unserved and underserved communities.”

“In a time when COVID-19 drives us to deliver more and broader services like health and education remotely, this bill would connect students to remote learning with digital equipment and affordable broadband options, connect school buses to Wi-Fi and help schools and libraries close the ‘homework gap’ outside school,” said Case.

“It’s way past time to bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st Century.”

On the heels of the “Climate Crisis Action Plan” released yesterday by the House which includes two measures to protect oceans and reefs introduced by Case, the “Moving Forward Act” also includes $70 billion to transform the nation’s electric grid to accommodate more renewable energy; supports widespread adoption off zero-emission cars, vans and buses through tax credits for purchasing vehicles; and builds on current successful tax incentives that promote the deployment of green energy technologies, among other provisions meant to deal with the climate crisis.

Other measures of interest to Hawai‘i in H.R. 2 include:

  • Transportation
    • Authorizes over $1.2 billion for Hawaii in highway formula funding over five years.
    • Authorizes over $319 million for Hawai‘i in transit formula programs over five years.
    • Increases the resilience of transportation assets by requiring the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) and State-prepared long-range transportation plans to include strategies to mitigate and reduce climate impacts and a vulnerability assessment of critical transportation assets, evacuation routes, and facilities repeatedly damaged by disasters. The MPO and State must identify projects to address identified vulnerabilities, and these projects are eligible for funding under the newly established pre-disaster mitigation program.
    • The pre-disaster mitigation program will receive $6.25 billion in apportioned funds over the life of the bill. Construction of resilience improvements, including construction of natural infrastructure or protective features, are eligible on many existing highway or transit asset. Funds can also be used to relocate or construct alternatives to transportation infrastructure that is repeatedly damaged by extreme weather events, to address current and future vulnerabilities to evacuation routes designated in an MPO or State’s vulnerability assessment, or for disaster recovery, training, and telework programs. Projects eligible for funding under this section must be designed to ensure resilience over the life of the facility and take into consideration current and projected changes in flooding based on climate science and projected land use. 
  • Natural Resources:
    • Authorizes a $3 billion coastal resiliency fund managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide funding for shovel-ready coastal restoration projects that restores habitat for fish and wildlife or assists in adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Priority projects include those that stimulate the economy, create jobs for fishermen, or are located in under-resourced communities.
  • Housing
    • Establishes a Neighborhood Investment Tax Credit that would be used to rehabilitate or construct old and new homes in distressed areas for very low to low income families. This would help maintain affordable housing in communities.
    • Would also expand and create improvements to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program which would create more incentives for developers to create affordable housing for very low to mid income people. The provisions to the program also include incentives for rural and tribal communities which have been left out in the tax credit program.
    • Authorizes $70 billion to the Public Housing Capital Fund to help reconstruct and improve public housing.
    • Authorizes $5 billion to the National Housing Trust Fund, similar to the Neighborhood Investment Tax Credit, to rehabilitate and create housing but for the lowest income households.
  • Broadband
    • Establishes a grant program at the FCC, using the authorities that established the E-Rate program, for schools and libraries to fund connectivity for students and teachers in the digital classroom. The program could be used to fund wired and wireless broadband connections at home, and provide connected devices, including laptops and tablets, to homes of students and teachers. The program also supports mobile hotspot-lending by schools or libraries, among other things. Appropriates $5 billion to carry out this program, of which five percent of funds is set aside for use on Tribal Lands.
    • Establishes the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program to aid States in digital equity and digital inclusion activities. States applying to receive grants must have an established State Digital Equity Plan and a designated administering entity. Grants are determined by formula and must be used within a five-year period to implement the State’s Digital Equity Plan and to pursue digital inclusion activities consistent with that plan. Appropriates $60 million for grants to States to develop their digital equity plans and $625 million is provided for grants to implement these plans.

      No less than five percent of the funds must be used to award grants to Indian tribes, Alaska Native entities, and Native Hawaiian organizations.

    • Appropriates $80 billion to fund competitive bidding systems to build broadband infrastructure. Seventy-five percent of the funding is to be used for a nationwide system of competitive bidding to fund broadband deployment in unserved areas, defined as areas with service below 25/25 Megabits per second (Mbps), and areas with low-tier service, defined as areas with service between 25/25 and 100/100 Mbps.

      The remaining funds (25 percent) are to be distributed among States, by population, for States to conduct statewide systems of competitive bidding for broadband deployment in unserved areas, areas with low-tier service, and to unserved anchor institutions (anchor institutions with speeds less than 1 gigabit per 1,000 users).

“H.R. 2 responds directly to the critical needs of our nation’s infrastructure which we have allowed to deteriorate to critical levels,” said Case. “But it also responds directly to the critical need to rebuild the overall economy of our nation and Hawai’i through an investment in jobs in the same manner as we literally dug ourselves out of the Great Depression.”  

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A fact sheet on the Moving Forward Act is available here.

 

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