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$1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Pours Money Into Long-Delayed Needs

  • August 03, 2021

The legislation would authorize funding to reconstruct a highway in Alaska, the home state of Senator Lisa Murkowski, a key Republican negotiator. Special funds are set aside for the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal economic development body whose co-chairwoman is Gayle Manchin, the wife of Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, one of the bill’s principal authors and a key Democratic swing vote. Mr. Manchin also helped secure funds to clean up abandoned mine lands in states like his.

The legislation would set aside funds for individual projects across the country, including $1 billion for the restoration of the Great Lakes, $24 million for the San Francisco Bay, $106 million for the Long Island Sound and $238 million for the Chesapeake Bay.

It also includes $66 billion in new funding for rail to address Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, along with upgrading the high-traffic Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston. For Mr. Biden, an Amtrak devotee who took an estimated 8,000 round trips on the line, it is a step toward fulfilling his promise to inject billions into rail.

With Republicans and some moderate Democrats opposed to adding to the nation’s ballooning debt, the legislation includes a patchwork of financing mechanisms, though some fiscal hawks have called many of them insufficient.

To pay for the legislation, lawmakers have turned partly to $200 billion in unused money from previous pandemic relief programs enacted in 2020.

That includes $53 billion in expanded jobless benefit money that can be repurposed since the economy recovered more quickly than projections assumed, and because many states discontinued their pandemic unemployment insurance payments out of concern that the subsidies were dissuading people from rejoining the work force.

The bill claws back more than $30 billion that was allocated — but had not been spent — for a Small Business Administration disaster loan program, which offers qualified businesses low-interest loans and small grants. That program has been stymied by shifting rules and red tape, and has disbursed cash far more slowly than Congress (and many applicants) expected.

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