When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, then Vice President Biden is famously known for exclaiming what a big deal it was — a BFD. This coming Monday, President Biden will get his own BFD when he signs into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (BID). This once-in-a-generation law will give the economy and Main Streets across America a much-needed upgrade. While there was sniping over the BID by the far wings of both parties, its support was truly bipartisan as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognized its necessity.
“Communities all across the Commonwealth will benefit from this bill, which will provide critical federal resources to assist the state in updating our highways, bridges, airports, broadband, and clean drinking water. Through today’s actions, we will be more competitive on the global stage and primed for broad-based economic growth,” said U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), when the bill passed the Senate.
This legislation has broad support on Capitol Hill, with large corporations and Main Street.
“Today’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a victory for the American people. This legislation will generate historic investments in America’s transportation, water, energy and communications systems and will drive long-term U.S. prosperity and competitiveness,” said Joshua Bolten, President and CEO of the Business Roundtable, when the BID passed the House of Representatives. A Small Business for America’s Future survey found that 81% of small business owners support the BID.
This legislation will support businesses and support Main Streets throughout the country in the following ways.
1. Codifying of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
The MBDA helps minority entrepreneurs get access to government contracts and capital. This legislation codifies the agency and provides it with $110 million in annual funding through 2025, which is more than double the $48 million Congress allocated in 2021. The majority of this money is slated to go to the MBDA Business Center Program, which provides minority entrepreneurs with support such as technical assistance and community referrals.
“The codification of the MBDA is a huge victory for all minority owned small businesses,” National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship President and CEO Chiling Tong said, “The MBDA provides resources to increase capacity and unify minority-owned small businesses to develop and thrive. We commend the Biden-Harris Administration for its continued commitment to minority-owned small business.”
2. Increasing Access to Reliable High-speed Internet
Broadband internet is necessary for small businesses to reach their full potential and Covid-19 demonstrated that it is critical now more than ever to go digital. Unfortunately, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure to provide minimally acceptable internet speed. The BID allocates $65 billion to address this, including $40 billion for a formula-based grant program to states, territories, and the District of Columbia for the purposes of broadband deployment. Each project would have to meet a minimum download/upload build standard of 100/20 megabits per second.
“Small businesses who are contributing to the American revitalization should not be paralyzed due to a lack of connectivity,” said C. LeRoy Cavazos-Reyna, Vice President of Government and International Affairs for the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “The days of limited digital access and business success being defined by a person’s zip code are over. Building out our broadband ecosystem and granting businesses and people digital privilege will only further ensure our economic vibrancy.”
3. Upgrading Airports, Ports, and Waterways
The supply chain issues we have been seeing are the results of decades of neglect and underinvestment in our transportation infrastructure. According to some rankings, no U.S. airports rank in the top 25 of airports worldwide. The legislation invests $25 billion for the Airport Improvement grant program for runways, gates, and taxiways as well as a new Airport Terminal Improvement program for terminals, concessions, and multimodal connections. It also provides $17.3 billion for funding for waterway and coastal infrastructure, inland waterway improvements, port infrastructure, and land ports of entry.
“The real winners of this legislation will be the American people and millions of small businesses across the country who rely on a transportation and infrastructure system to move their American-made goods and workforce,” said Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE).
4. Addressing Climate Change and Environmental Remediation
Climate change and weather disasters are impacting Main Streets and communities. This will only get worse if not addressed. The BID commits $47 billion to address critical infrastructure needs, waste management, flood mitigation, wildfire, drought, and coastal resiliency, ecosystem restoration, and weatherization. Part of this investment includes $21 billion in environmental remediation, making the largest investment in addressing the legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities and neighborhoods in American history, creating good-paying union jobs in hard-hit energy communities.
“This historic investment in our infrastructure will be transformational for our communities by providing jobs, clean water, green solutions, and modern digital access,” said Eddie Monroy, Executive Director of NextGen Chamber of Commerce.
5. Upgrading the Power Infrastructure
The Department of Energy reports that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion each year, creating instability in communities. The legislation allocates $73 billion for grid reliability, as well as critical minerals and supply chains for clean energy technology. It also upgrades our power infrastructure by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy.
“Strengthening the grid is a critical issue to address the climate crisis and enable the deployment of clean energy sources across the country. Now the House and Senate must continue their work on the Build Back Better Act to enact key climate provisions and the largest federal investment in clean energy in American history,” said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association.
The pandemic showed the vulnerability of small business, the economy, and our infrastructure. And while this is an important step, Congress needs to move quickly to pass the Build Back Better Framework as well, which compliments this infrastructure bill with important social and economic policies. While we continue to fully recover from the Covid-19, much is going on in the federal policy space that will impact business. This bill is definitely a once in a generation moment.
I’ll say it again for President Joe Biden, BID is a BFD for business.