Invest in Infrastructure

For too long, America’s infrastructure has been taken for granted. Highways, streets, public buildings, mass transit, ports, airports, inland waterways, water systems, waste facilities, dams, levees and other public and private facilities are vital to our country’s economy and global competitiveness, public health and national security and personal mobility and quality of life. But this infrastructure has been left to age and investments have not kept pace to meet the needs of today or tomorrow. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the overall condition of the nation’s infrastructure is a “D+,” with an investment gap of $2 trillion.1 Maintaining our nation’s aging infrastructure are 17.2 million essential frontline workers, concentrated in 94 different occupations. Representing about 12 percent of all workers nationally, the infrastructure sector is larger than retail (16 million) or manufacturing (12.6 million) and second only to health care (20.6 million).2 A quarter of this workforce is expected to retire or permanently leave their jobs in the next decade. The workforce gap is more urgent in transportation, water and energy.3 Before the coronavirus outbreak, economic analysis showed that by 2025, infrastructure would continue to degrade, resulting in a loss of 2.5 million jobs, $3.9 trillion in GDP, and $7 trillion in lost business sales and costing each American family $3,400 a year in unexpected repairs and lost productivity.4 The COVID-19 pandemic has created an economic shock that has resulted in tens of millions of workers unemployed. In order to jumpstart our economy, protect current infrastructure workers and their families, create new jobs and build for our future, the federal government must fund a nationwide infrastructure program that prioritizes high-need, low-income communities by investing in broadband internet, 5G networks, transportation, housing, high-quality water systems and toxic remediation. Far too often, federal investments in infrastructure have short-changed rural areas and communities of color, leaving them disconnected from opportunity. This time, any federal infrastructure package should include stipulations that states partner with community-based organizations serving and located in distressed communities so an equitable recovery is a reality.5