By Hazel | Trice Edney Wire
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Now that the long-awaited Bi-partisan Infrastructure deal has passed the U. S. Congress and has been signed into law by President Joe Biden, White House documents say Black and other communities of color have reason to celebrate the high-level benefits on the way.
“These critical investments are first steps in advancing equity and racial justice throughout our economy,” says a “Fact Sheet”, issued by the White House. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act addresses economic disparities in our economy and the consequences of decades of disinvestment in America’s infrastructure that have fallen most heavily on communities of color.”
Among the benefits listed:
- Through critical investments, the legislation increases access to good-paying jobs, affordable high-speed internet, reliable public transit, clean drinking water and other resources to ensure communities of color get a fair shot at the American dream. These critical investments are first steps in advancing equity and racial justice throughout our economy.
- The agreement’s $65 billion investment ensures every American has access to reliable high-speed internet with an historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment, the White House says. The document explains, “There is a stark digital divide in America. Black families are 9% less likely to have high-speed internet than their white peers, and Latino Americans are 15% less likely. About 35% of individuals living on Tribal lands lack access to broadband service. Although studies suggest high levels of digital access for Asian Americans, these studies are often limited in scope and don’t identify key inequities.”
- The deal makes the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, replacing all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines. From rural towns to struggling cities, the deal invests in water infrastructure across America as pipes and treatment plants are aging and polluted drinking water is endangering public health. There are up to 10 million homes with lead service lines and pipes. Children in up to 400,000 schools and child care facilities are at risk of exposure to lead. Across the country, families of color are at the highest risk for lead exposure at home and in schools.
- The legislation’s roughly $65 billion investment is the single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history. Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native communities are more likely to be burdened by pollution. Black people are almost three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than their white counterparts. And more than one in three—or over 23 million—Latinos in the U.S. live in counties where the air doesn’t meet EPA public health standards for smog.
- The legislation also includes a critical down payment on helping the more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers who breathe polluted air on their rides to and from school. Diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other health problems that hurt our communities and cause students to miss school, particularly in communities of color and Tribal communities. The legislation will deliver thousands of electric school buses nationwide, helping school districts across the country buy clean, American-made, zero emission buses, replacing the yellow school bus fleet for America’s children.
- The cleanups of brownfields and superfund sites are also slated. Across America, 26% of Black Americans and 29% of Hispanic Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site, a higher percentage than for the overall population. Proximity to a Superfund site can lead to elevated levels of lead in children’s blood. Recent studies demonstrate that cleaning up these sites can lead to a decrease in blood levels by approximately 13-26%.
- The creation of good-paying jobs are among the keys to the new plan. It provides $21 billion to create good-paying union jobs plugging orphan oil and gas wells, cleaning up abandoned mines, and remediating Brownfield and Superfund sites. As we transition to a clean energy future, the Bipartisan Infrastructure deal will begin to remedy economic injustice for communities across the country that have relied on the fossil fuel industry and have been affected most by the impacts of climate change and pollution, including rural communities and communities of color.
- Finally, the new law will safeguard communities of color from climate crises and extreme weather risks. People of color are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Black and Hispanic residents were twice as likely to report lost income. Tribal lands are significantly at risk to the effects of climate change and Alaska Natives are particularly vulnerable, as they face multiple climate impacts.
The list appears quite hefty, but there is much more that is needed, which is believed to come from the Build Back Better Act now making its way through the Senate. The White House has said, “The President has said additional investments are needed in the nation’s caregiving infrastructure, housing supply, regional development, and workforce development programs to ensure that communities of color and other underserved communities can access economic opportunity and justice.”