Updates from Congress
Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2021
By A. Donald McEachin
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. November was a very busy month, both on Capitol Hill and in the District, so I wanted to share some key wins and highlights from the month.
I was excited to co-host a roundtable discussion with the Metropolitan Business League and Amazon to explore Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator program. The program is designed to help grow Black-owned businesses and provide Black entrepreneurs with important resources, guidance, marketing and promotional help. Programs such as the Amazon Black Business Accelerator program help us increase equity, support Black business entrepreneurs, and create a stronger and fairer economy for all.
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Last month, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, into law. Here in Virginia, we have some specific needs that should be met by this important legislation.
Over the past decade, commute times have increased by almost 8% and drivers pay $517 per year in costs because of driving on roads in need of repair here in the Commonwealth. The package includes $7 billion for transportation projects in Virginia, some of it in commitments that have now been reauthorized while some of the money is distinctly for new projects. In addition, Virginia will receive more than $500 million for bridge replacement and repairs. Building and repairing these highways, roads and bridges will create good-paying, much-needed jobs for a workforce that has been waiting for these opportunities. Fortunately, Virginia has an effective process, put in place by the General Assembly, to determine the greatest need in our highway system, so we should be able to efficiently and quickly put this money to use.
Almost 10% of Virginians live in an area with virtually no broadband infrastructure, and almost 40% live in areas with only one internet provider. Moreover, broadband poses a financial hardship for many households. At least $100 million will come to Virginia to help us achieve our goal of universal broadband access, ensuring high speed internet across the Commonwealth. Additionally, almost 2 million Virginians will be eligible for a benefit that helps low-income families afford high speed internet.
About $1.2 billion will flow into Virginia to improve public transit by modernizing bus and train fleets. Moreover, Amtrak will receive $22 billion, which will be used to modernize rail cars and stations, as well as expand rail service between Washington, D.C., Richmond, Hampton Roads, and the western part of the state. Virginia airports and seaports will also receive funding to improve their infrastructure, from runways to terminals.
We should also receive about $738 million over the next five years to replace water pipes and other aging drinking water systems, both of which are essential for public health. Access to clean, safe drinking water must be a right for all Virginians. These systems need to meet up-to-date, 21st-century standards.
To help combat climate change, Virginia should receive at least $106 million to install charging stations to make electric vehicles more convenient. This funding also includes monies to replace pollution-emitting school buses with electric ones, keeping our byways and neighborhoods cleaner and healthier.
In the last decade, Virginia has experienced 40 extreme weather events, which are estimated to have cost the state more than $10 billion. This legislation will bring Virginia $15 million to protect against wildfires. We must reduce and eliminate climate change but, in the meantime, these monies can help us decrease costs associated with extreme weather events.
Congressman Donald McEachin represents Virginia’s 4th Congressional District.