How will the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invest in community connectedness, economic progress and racial equity? Our modern-day interstate highway system was constructed through communities of color — devastating neighborhoods, devaluing assets and precipitating lasting disconnection and disinvestment. Transportation infrastructure policy combined with local redlining practices to further exacerbate dislocation and disinvestment. Moreover, BIPOC communities have shouldered the burden of legacy pollution and decrepit water infrastructure for generations. This panel discussed the ways in which the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law ushers forward an era of promise for advancing equity through infrastructure programs to reconnect communities divided by transportation infrastructure, ensure clean drinking water and create employment pipelines to further economic prosperity in historically marginalized communities of color.
Alaina Beverly, Assistant Vice President of Urban Affairs, University of Chicago
Karen Dettmer, Managing Director for Infrastructure Implementation, Environmental Protection Agency
Megan Haberle, Senior Director of Policy, NCRC
Christopher Coes, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, Department of Transportation
NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.
Thank you so much. Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us for this panel on advancing racial equity through infrastructure investments. My name is Alaina Beverly, I am an Assistant Vice President for Urban Affairs at the University of Chicago based here in our Federal Relations Office and a frequent commentator on MSNBC. And it is my my good friend Christopher just laughed at me. I am, I am honored to be your moderator for today’s important discussion. So we still have a few more people coming in to be seated, let’s do a little bit of housekeeping. There is an app that you can use to check in for this session so that we know who is joining us for this important discussion. Feel free to use social media, the you can use @NCRC for attribution, and you can use the hashtag just economy. I’m going to stop right there and pause for a smile. All right, and that’s taken care of. So this conversation is going to be just that a discussion amongst experts. And then and then turning it over to you for important questions, because you are our community experts, our community practitioners, and we want to make sure that we get to some answers about where the rubber meets the road. So without further ado, I’ll talk to you a little bit about the goals of today’s discussion. We are going to be talking about the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law and some related policies like the justice 40 initiative, and the ways that they those policies intended to connect communities enhance health and prosperity and in doing so, also advance racial equity and reduce racial disparities. We know everyone in this audience knows the ways in which the modern day interstate highway system was largely constructed through segregated communities and redlining communities of color, generally, and the African American communities specifically. So we literally had highways that were built through vibrant economic corridors and built through neighborhoods in ways that displaced communities that disconnected communities and resulted in a devaluing of assets and, and disparate investments for generations. Similarly, historic infrastructure investments have also sought communities to connect to regional amenities, and left other neighborhoods and communities behind. Moreover, today, bipoc communities are bear the burden of legacy pollution and decrepit water infrastructure, resulting in families of color being far more likely to suffer increased lead exposure in their homes, in their places of business and in their schools. So we were all thrilled by the by the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law and an ushered in a new era of potential investments in connecting communities and investing in community health and in, in creating jobs. And what we want to do today is talk to you about the contours of that law. The contours have other policies that are related to it, and and to explore where there are funding streams and opportunities for communities to engage with the these policies to help advance racial equity. I am joined today by a distinguished panel of experts who are helping to execute on these policies and programs. First, I have Christopher Coes, Assistant Secretary for transportation policy at the Department of Transportation recently Senate confirmed and we’re very proud of him. Second, Karen Dettmer, Managing Director of infrastructure implementation in the office of water in at the Environmental Protection Agency. And third, last but not least, Megan Haberle, Senior Director of Policy at NCRC. Now I’m I’m just introducing them by name and title, you have their bios in your programs, and they have distinguished bios, I’m hoping that they will take a few minutes and go down the line and tell us a little bit about their role, their current position and their experience, their orientation to this work of connecting infrastructure to racial equity. So Chris, why don’t we start with you?
First, good afternoon, everyone. Oh, this is good. I’m coming from a Baptist church so they everyone to back was was fine. So it’s good. Again, Christopher Coes, currently the Assistant Secretary for translation policy at the department transportation. That’s a lot of words to say my chief responsibility within the department is to guide our overall policy for the department which includes helping draft what is now a $1.2 trillion industry. As your package and that role, I have had the privilege of working with some amazing political and non corrupt leadership of actually trying to intersect our key priorities as administration, which includes for the department safety, because safety is our North Star, but also around racial equity, economic performance and competitiveness, climate, as well as recognize that infrastructure itself is transforming for the 21st century. And so bringing that in a way where we can ensure that every individual can live in a thriving, walkable and inclusive environment is our goal. How did I arrive to this space, I see so many of my familiar friends here who can probably tell you really great stories of how I got here. But one of these, I’ll just emphasize, before joining the administration, I served as the vice president of an organization called Smarter for America, which has served in partnership with a number of you on the ground, which is really bringing the intersectionality of environment equity and in the built environment, and how do we ensure we have more thriving communities for all prior to that I also taught at George Washington University and Brookings, but really, the whole whole whole, for me was also working with the private sector, recognizing that it’s critical to harness now in the public sector capital, but also the private capital to really truly invest in place in people to achieve those goals. So again, I’m really appreciative to have the opportunity to talk about some of the work that the Secretary of Bucha agenda this administration is doing. And with that, I’ll turn it to my fellow colleagues.
Karen, you want to introduce yourself and your role?
Absolutely. So really tough act to follow there. When Chris mentioned $1.2 trillion, I had to take a step back, because I think EPA has long been kind of the little sister of DOT, where he’s probably used to talking about trillions of dollars. But EPA, for the first time ever has $50 billion in water infrastructure funding investment from the bipartisan infrastructure law, enough to just shut the house down. So we’re ecstatic about that. It’s not often that EPA is Office of Water talks about billions of dollars in water infrastructure from the federal government. And I have the pleasure of joining the EPA office of water to oversee the implementation strategy of that $50 billion. And it’s really exciting to me, particularly because of the Biden Harris administration priorities of advancing racial equity throughout the implementation of that funding. So that coupled with other priorities of climate, advancing climate and climate change is not advancing climate change, advancing and addressing climate impacts. We’re really excited about this funding. And we are working fast and furiously to stand up our grant opportunities, as well as pushed that funding out in a new way through existing programs. So I’m really honored to be accepting that role at the EPA Office of Water. I actually have been at EPA for just under two months now. And I came from running the local drinking water utility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And there it is, you know, certainly no secret that some of the nation’s largest racial disparities exist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for many of the reasons that Elena and Chris mentioned, as far as redlining and building highways through our neighborhoods that had been thriving in the past. But primarily, what we focused on at our drinking water utility was removing 70,000 lead service line that existed within the city of Milwaukee and Wisconsin, a primary goal. And one of the things and when one of the ways that that brought me to the topic of racial equity and inclusion was how we were engaging our neighborhoods, how were we engaging our communities that were hit the hardest by the impacts of adding lead to water. And through those exercises through that, looking into, we partnered with a couple of our sister utilities, we looked at how we could engage that community. We partnered with community organizations and wrote the first ever roadmap for advancing racial equity through water infrastructure for the City of Milwaukee. And what we really decided to focus on was workforce development, making sure we knew that water equity paired nicely with the ability to have a great family sustaining job. So that was the first and foremost focus that could get us to a place where families were supporting their communities. We were bringing in individuals to make sure that they had access to those jobs that they knew that those ABS existed, and really just started the work before I got pulled out here to Washington, DC. But I’m really proud of that work and the communities and the collaborative relationships that were built through that work to understand what that the utility really is comprised of community members, and the community members have a certain expertise that the utility needs to rely on as well. So really, working externally with community partners, but also in gait better engaging our own workforce, to understand that they are part of the community, and let’s engage the community together while building their their trading capacity. So just that was just a little bit about my background, I’m a licensed professional engineer in the state of Wisconsin, really fell into public service. So anytime I any chance I get to talk to young engineers, Please invite me to your your universities or colleges or high schools, grade schools, I really love to tout the ability to make an impact in the community through public service. So that’s, that’s just my little, my little plug there at the end.
Thank you, Karen. And Megan, please introduce yourself and your role and your orientation to the work which actually precedes even your position here at NCRC.
Yeah, so Megan Haberle, Senior Director of Policy here at NCRC. I’ve only been on staff here for about three months. So this is my first NCRC conference, really excited to be here and be speaking at the conference today. But I have spent most of my career focused on economic justice policies and equity and infrastructure policies. Specifically, I come from an advocates perspective, and specifically, I’m a civil rights lawyer by training. So I sort of came of age to this work back during the former process of economic recovery, in 2000, around 2009 2010, we were when we’re seeing the American stimulus package flow out to community is, and there really weren’t sort of structures or guardrails in place to make sure that those funds were flowing out in a manner that was equitable. That was even, you know, sort of meeting the basic threshold of compliance, often, with non discrimination standards or civil rights standards, there was a lot of focus around, you know, let’s get the money out the door, let’s get it to flow to shovel ready, shovel ready projects. And it was the role of the advocates to sort of speak up and talk about the importance of civil rights and making sure that that money was flowing to the communities that were in need. So that was, you know, sort of the stage of my career that opened my eyes, to the way that we see these sort of inequities and infrastructure spending, you know, that were created within historical practices generations ago, manifested even today, in the present, and the way that federal systems and federal policy systems, you know, aren’t necessarily set up in a way that is going to funnel that money where it’s needed, such that it causes, it’s caused for a lot of, you know, deliberate engagement, and pushing by the advocacy community, as well as from the inside, you know, by by policymakers, who are, you know, I think what we’re seeing in this administration in particular, is really historic prioritization of racial equity and that equity mandate, in a way that I think was, you know, somewhat frustrating to advocate, you know, 10 years ago, even when policymakers were very well intended, that that money sort of wasn’t flowing out to where we thought it was the most needed. And so a lot of the way that I think about infrastructure and infrastructure policy is is contextualized by the body of civil rights laws. And those were allies that were pushed forward by the Civil Rights Movement. You know, people going to the streets marching, asking for their rights to be vindicated, and asking to make sure that there was a framework in the courts, but also within the government and policy designs within the government, to make sure that we had greater equity in the way that resources were being spent, both when it comes to the distribution of benefits, which is to say, new resources that are flowing out, but also when it comes to the burdens that we also see go hand in hand, too often with infrastructure spending. So the classic example, of course, is the highways that were built through through those African American and other communities of color. You know, but we also see that with with many other types of infrastructure, you know, in our in our country, even into the present day, another aspect of the thinking that I bring into this is looking at that framework of civil rights laws and thinking about what are the different ways that we can use those tools and sort of the different theories of change that can attach to that set of tools. So litigation, the complaint process is One set of challenging discriminatory practices, making sure that rates are vindicated either in the courts, or going to the agencies and having the agencies step in and help in their enforcement roles. Another area is within the policy designs themselves. So that’s often referred to as ex ante measures, making sure that even more for this plant those funds flow out the door, or you’re seeing infrastructure projects go in place with their policy designs that have civil rights standards, baked into them at the very outset, and that are informed by that set of civil rights laws. And then we also see, you know, a movement building aspect outside of that. So where does the community come in or their screamer, it’s giving space for community members to lend their voice to the kinds of investments that they want to see, and making sure that there’s no space in the in the regulatory framework or the policy framework for those kinds of community interactions. And then the last note, that I’ll just lift up, before turning it back over to our moderator is that I also give a lot of thought to how these these issues connect to other issues around civil rights and democracy, and in particular, to voting rights into power at the state and the local level. So some of you may have been in the environmental justice panel earlier today. And folks there, were speaking from the vantage point of environmental justice advocates and movement leaders, about the role of the states in passing through a lot of these funds that we’re seeing flowing out of the federal government, and the fact that he’s often come into control of sort of more conservative leaning state governments, or in some cases, local governments. And so do a lot of thinking too about the way that kind of feeds back into issues of, you know, who are the local electeds answering to what is the role of sort of local money and resources in shaping those local political conversations, that then in turn inform the way that these infrastructure dollars are spent? So with that, I’ll turn it back over to you Alaina.
Thank you, Megan, thank you so much for that framework, because we’re going to come back to that over and over again, what are some of the ex ante anti provisions and measures in ways that racial equity is being baked into the policies and the the grants and the funding streams that are coming down from the agencies? Chris, I’m going to turn it to you for an overview of that $1.2 trillion. And the ways in which the bipartisan infrastructure bill aims to help connect communities and to write some of the historic wrongs it’s not I don’t think it’s explicitly spelled out in the provisions that this is, is an aim to, to write the historical record. But there’s a proactive sense of how you are trying to connect communities, particularly communities of color and advance racial equity. And if you could speak to that.
Certainly, first and foremost, one of the things that’s important to center here is we as an administration did not wait for a bipartisan efficient law to try to address the historic harms that was happening in the communities. On day one, we’ve all heard the kind of talking point the President signed an executive order that around racial equity, but also around environment justice, and joining the climate crisis, which actually created the justice 40 initiative. Through that framework, our Secretary literally on his first day came coming in, instituted through our office, a new equity guidance, and through that, that actually informed now in through the dollars that we have as OSC, but also all the memos that we worked with, with US Federal Highway, Federal Transit Administration, which basically said a couple of things. Number one, we wanted to do a data assessment of how our dollars are actually impacting community, and how we can talk about the program design and making them better. Through that. We also then identify some key language that we wanted to see in every discretionary grant that came out over the last year, FY 21. Now taking those two things together, of course, working with our sister agencies are doing that data research, we found that through that process, through that policy framework that incorporated equity and climate, in the majority of our discretionary grants, we saw an immediate impact, most notably, one that should get cheers from both sides of the aisle is that through the dollars that we were spending, just before the bipartisan infrastructure law, we saw a 23 increase percent increase in dollars going to rural, tribal and disadvantaged communities. And I think that from the from the get go, it’s really set a tone about how we wanted to leverage the bipartisan infrastructure law. And I think you’re gonna see more agencies actually begin to have those thoughtful discussions as they’re learning through their own exercise, as we did early on. Now with that those efforts, those data assessment that we all did, really did actually inform the bipartisan infrastructure law. Now, of course, you have the American jobs plan to eventually go negotiate with Congress. But one of the things are a couple of things that we saw in the infrastructure package I want to emphasize that really speaks to how are we trying to reconnect communities and address the harms. First and foremost, one of the things that we really work with our colleagues on Capitol Hill, because again, as you know, to make laws requires you to push an agenda, having a store, Northstar, but also build a coalition. And I’ll be honest with you, yes, about 70% of all of our dollars as in part of the 1.2 trillion, but also the 650 billion that comes with the department transportation flows through a formula. And that formula goes directly to state do T’s, to Metropolitan organizations, to transit agencies and into in limited cases directly to cities. Now, people will say that doesn’t change the status quo. But a couple of things actually did happen as part of that. So normally, folks will yell and say, Oh, state do T’s have all the money. Actually, within the program, some equity was incorporated, which actually instruct DoD is now to increase the level of sub allocation to localities and MPOs, which means advocates, local governments, mayors, business leaders, this is your opportunity to actually engage in the transportation planning process that you otherwise would not have been engaged in, because that’s normally a process that had been held and managed by your state, DOD, or MPO, this is a new opportunity to organize. The second piece here is we saw significant increases, because of what we’ve been seeing in terms of deaths on roadways. As you know, what we released a report that shows nearly 40,000 individuals are dying on our roadways, disproportionately, that is black and brown communities. And if you actually take a step back and look through the history of redlining and infrastructure spending, there’s a direct coalition correlation, when you look at communities that have high pedestrian impact are generally in places that did not see the necessary investments that actually made it safer for mother to walk her child to her school. So her child could also then leave school and go to the grocery store to bring back eggs home before the sun, the lights come on, right. And that’s the speaking from my own experience living in a rural town. One of the things that infrastructure bill did was actually create $5 billion dedicated to supporting and reducing local governments tragic story of roadway fatalities. And from our perspective, we just released this NOFO, several months ago, we are looking for communities to actually prioritize equity in that. So it means who’s dying the most, where and how are you going to address it. And this for the first time, we’re actually designing the program where as part of the infrastructure law, we are prioritizing local governments more so than stay do tease. The last few things I’ll emphasize here is that we can’t talk about equity. And if we don’t talk about access, right, the idea that we are living in an environment where we’re dealing with multiple fires, we’re dealing with the economic crisis and recovery that’s induced by the COVID-19. On public health crisis. We have a climate crisis, we have a equity crisis. And we have a crisis of the future of how do we make sure that we as a nation are competitive against our global adversaries. Through that, we’re finding that we have to actually bring these things because they have intersectionality, we have to bring them together. And one of the ways we do that is recognize that people need to have more options to get to places. And that means we need to invest more, not just in the car dominated society that we built out, but also in more walkable, biking, and inclusive spaces. Where if you’re disabled, whether you’re a child, whether you’re a senior citizen, you should be able to live in a thriving community. And if you take a step back, if some of those were in a real estate community, you know, this, places that have multiple options of getting around, are rising in costs. So from our perspective, if we’re going to compete in the future address, climate, and also sensor equity, it also means for the first time, we had to invest in a span transit. And that’s one of the things that I’m really excited about is that for the first time, this is the largest investment and public transportation ever, the largest investment and passenger rail ever, which means more communities want to have the ability to dress equity. Now, with that being said, and I’ll conclude here, we also recognize that as we have these new leverage, I mean, again, from the department transportation, not only do we see increasing foreign load dollars, we also see an increase in our discretionary dollars. Now recognizing that we have a framework that seems to be successful, we’re going to continue to address that, but also recognize that for the first time, the bypass Institure law actually did something that many advocates have been calling out for a long time, which is yes, we need to acknowledge that some harm has happened. And so for the first time, we’re going to be announcing very soon the next couple of weeks, a new program called the reconnecting Communities Program, and the reconnect community program is intended to do three things. Number one we recognize as part of the bypass In Shuttle law, there, many communities are now sitting on assets, we talk about highways as someone from come from rural America is the railroad lines, right? Living on the other side of the railroad track is a common phrase right? infrastructure that are coming at the end of the lifecycle. For many communities across the country, we recognize that they need capacity, technical system capacity planning dollars to actually ask a simple question, what has happened here? How did we arrive? And how can we move forward. And so we’re going to be providing those technical assistance and planning dollars. There are some communities now who have already done that iteration and process of understanding the intersectionality of land use and transportation and impact on their community on public health, and hadn’t actually designed transportation infrastructure projects, or removal of transportation infrastructure projects, to actually reconnect their communities. And so we’ll be also plot supplying Kabelo dollars as well. Recognizing that there’s only $1 billion, we are also looking to see how we can actually use the other dollars that we have as our $650 billion to actually leverage and make reconnected Communities Program, be more of a printable. And so to do that, we are looking across all of our discretion to see how we can incentivize those projects and those planning efforts, but also work with state do T’s and because what you may not know is that state duties are seeing the crisis too. And they’re asking how do we engage in this space. And so we’re going to use our bully pulpit, our convening power, and hopefully working with you who are on the ground to actually bring those strategies, lift up those voices, but also recognizing that this is a journey that we all had to take together. And if we do that, then the bipartisan interest of law years to come will be one that will catalyze more investments in the type of intervention that needs to happen to redress some of the harms that we’re seeing in rural and urban communities across the country.
Okay, so, Christopher, just to put a fine point on it, this reconnecting Communities program it is it is discretionary funding, it can go in partnership to community, community members to help participate in this planning and review of the way in which land use and transportation decisions have affected community.
Absolutely. And this is a game changer for us. Traditionally, department transportation doesn’t find community based organizations or partnerships or committee based opposition. Normally we find DLTs transit agencies MPOs. So in this case, community based organizations are eligible for our funding, we are highly encouraging organizations to partner amongst themselves, because you can imagine there are a lot of community groups in one place, but we’re encouraging community groups to partner also trying to partner with philanthropy, other civic organizations, particularly the private sector, and also your local government, you’re generally going to be more competitive that way. In addition to that, we recognize there gonna be a ton of communities who are not going to be ready. Yeah. And so we are later this year are going to be announcing kind of a learning a community of practice of sort, where community groups and local governments can come together to learn. And so we’re going to facilitate that in a separate announcement later this year.
That’s so exciting. Incredible. All right. I’m hoping that there’ll be a lots of questions from this audience about that opportunity, because that is a direct way to engage. And it’s, it’s hot off the presses. It hasn’t even been announced yet. So I’m feeling good about this panel already. tweeting or tweeting out, right. All right. So Karen, that’s going to be a tough act to follow. First of all, they do okay. So talk to us about the way in which the bipartisan infrastructure law is helping to address the lead water crisis and the community wastewater crisis. I mean, we most of the national attention has been focused on the Flint water crisis. But we know that there are elevated levels of lead in cities from Newark to New York to Baltimore to here in DC to Detroit, where I’m from. So help us understand how this law will help to address that and makes historic investments in that transformation.
Absolutely. So I mentioned the $50 billion. I just can’t say it enough, even though I feel like it’s been rubbed in a little bit over here by Chris, but it’s a lot of money. But $15 billion of that is exclusively for LED service line identification and replacement. And I mentioned identification because a lot of communities are out there. They don’t know where their lead service lines are. They don’t know how many lead service lines there are. So a good portion of that funding for fiscal year 2022. That has been announced we have $3 billion going out through similar to do t through formulas that we work with and we put that funding out to states tribes and territories. A lot of that funding will be used to identify where those lead service lines into our and get communities ready to replace those lead service lines. So we are really focused right now on technical assistance. We have a lot of technical assistance funding availability through EPA set aside that we receive from the bill funding. And we also have technical assistance funding that we are regularly using that we put out to states and community partners through our environmental finance centers that we use on an annual basis. And as far as you can see, I oversee Bill implementation, and I oversee the infrastructure implementation, but we are pulling that money from everywhere that we can to, to leverage those resources and make sure that communities are well prepared, and their community partners are well prepared, I know firsthand, that you’re not going to get a property owner to sign off on the paperwork when the water utility comes and knocks on the door. Right? They’re gonna say, I don’t want to talk to the water utility, what have you done for me lately, and they’re gonna slam the door. But when you have a community based organization that comes and knocks on the door, and explain and uses their expertise about the neighborhood, and explains to that individual, that household, the importance of getting that lead service line replaced, and engaging them that property owner to understand what their concerns are, a whole world of opportunity opens up and gathering that community expertise, understanding what the anxieties are associated with getting that lead service line replace, understanding that for a childcare facility, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had an or still has an ordinance, that all childcare facilities are to be operating with out a lead service line. So if you apply to have a childcare facility in the City of Milwaukee, the water utility will reach out to you replace the service line at that location free of charge, fantastic program. But what does that mean to a childcare operator, if they have to shut down for a day because they don’t have water to take care of those kids. So those types of bits and pieces of expertise that we know that our community partners are more willing to talk to? Or are our community partners are more able to get that information, and input and expertise and information about what those anxieties are for those households for those childcare providers. For those school operators. That is critical. And we need to arm those community organizations, we need to arm the utilities, we need to arm the states with the ability to get all that information together. So we will have an announcement later this summer. And we will be rolling out a lead technical assistance program. And we’re still developing it. So I wish that I was a little bit closer. Because we really need to focus on getting that technical assistance out not only to engage and get the identification to get the inventory is put together. But also how how does the small or disadvantaged underserved community put together a grant application to get that funding from the state, the $15 billion that’s put out to states, from the EPA, for states to implement and provide to communities 49% of that has to be provided to disadvantaged communities through principal forgiveness loans or grants, free money, and it has to go into disadvantaged communities. So we need to ensure that we’re arming disadvantaged communities with the information to apply with the technical expertise and assistance to apply for that funding to access that funding. And we are going out full force on that 39%.
Again, 49% funding must go to communities that are quote, unquote, disadvantaged, but that means underserved or historically marginalized communities who have the expertise and the insight and the trust of the communities to be able to carry out this work.
That’s right. And we’re not a big fan of that the word disadvantaged either. That’s what’s in this in the in the statute. So that’s what we use. And it’s important to note that the states actually define what a disadvantaged community means in their particular state. That is something that the EPA does not have control over. However, we have ability to encourage and incentivize the change of that definition of disadvantaged communities. So we put out in March of this year a bipartisan infrastructure law State Revolving Fund, which includes that lead service line replacement funding, implementation memo, a lot of words, just look up water bill implementation memo from March of this year. And in that we give some information about what states should be looking for in their definition of disadvantaged communities. We have many states that define disadvantaged communities as small communities, we know through engaging those states that they are really they are looking at that they are evaluating what their definition is of disadvantaged communities, because they know what they’re just looking at small communities, they’re not going to have any chance of getting this funding actually utilized. And they are very interested in utilizing this funding, they want to get the lead out, they want to ensure that they’re using this funding. And I’ll pivot a little bit from lead because that is very important, a high high priority for the EPA, but we have a lot of priorities. So in addition to the lead funding, the the the funding that’s going out in the general state revolving funds for all water infrastructure projects, stormwater, wastewater, clean water, getting wastewater removal systems, and treatment systems to communities that don’t currently have that small rural communities is so essential. And we’ve seen that firsthand, it is a public health issue, significant public health issue in certain communities. That funding also had that that $22 billion also has a requirement of 49% of it going to disadvantaged communities as principal forgiveness loans, which means you don’t have to pay it back. They forgive the principal, or grant funding, this is significant. And we need to ensure that those communities that are defined as disadvantaged by their states are getting access to that, and that the states are utilizing the correct definition of disadvantaged communities to get that and to get that money out to the right people that need it the most. I’ll also mention, we have a significant amount of funding that has been allocated $10 billion in total $5 billion included in that State Revolving Fund allocation. But also $5 billion, that we have an announcement coming out tomorrow, me too. We have an announcement coming out tomorrow about it, the emerging contaminants grants for small or disadvantaged communities, and that funding will address will be accessible to communities for water infrastructure projects related to drinking water to remove and address emerging contaminants, including pee fast perfluorinated compounds, forever chemicals. So significant amount of investment, that’s $5 billion over the five year span of the bipartisan infrastructure law. We’re announcing $1 billion going out tomorrow. And we’re really looking forward to all the states that have already engaged with us letting us know that they are interested in getting that funding and getting that funding out to communities that need it most. Again, that’s for small and disadvantaged communities to address emerging contaminants including PFOS or forever chemicals. So really excited about that as well.
Awesome. Okay, so I’m tempted to test the audience. But I’m not going to do that to you. We can talk a lot. I’m tempted to test because I have identified from this discussion thus far three grant opportunities that can go directly to community that can help to create jobs. Right. So first, I heard the reconnecting communities planning, I heard the lead service line identification. I heard the wastewater programs and emerging contaminants grants. I think I might have missed one from Christopher. But will he’s going to reiterate that. Is there anything? Are there any other programs or opportunities that you would want to identify or overarching themes that you’d want to raise? Either Christopher or Karen, about the way the bipartisan infrastructure law is creating jobs? For me in that not just any jobs, creating jobs for those who have been historically marginalized? Because, as Karen mentioned, I believe when in her opening remarks, she talked about how during the the Recovery Act, and in the rest rescue plan, there was an emphasis on shovel ready. And those shovel ready jobs tend not to go to contractors of color, they tend not to go to community organizations of color, and so I’m wondering how we talked about the 49%. We talked about the interest in racial equity, are there other avenues for job creation that you want to emphasize that are going to communities of color?
Absolutely. Three things, and I didn’t see this one. But three things I want to highlight. We all know that a bipartisan issue is a law. When we invest in infrastructure, it creates jobs. Like I don’t we don’t need to do the economics around that. We know that. The question is, are we building a workforce for these transition jobs that actually reflect the communities upon which we’re investing in point one, two, are we actually creating the infrastructure jobs and preparing communities for the innovation that is actually happening right now. And in three, to the extent that we are actually enhancing and building the ecosystem for the industry that we have now to prepare to deliver that? So let me take each of those. And I recognize I do have to? I’m gonna keep my comments short, because I do have to have a call of a secretary momentarily. But I will definitely, hopefully facilitate some q&a and possible, okay, great. So number one, we, as part of the justice 40 framework, we have to identify key programs that we want to deliver 40% Not just investments, but benefits to disadvantaged communities. One…
40% of the benefits of federal investments in climate and clean energy, including sustainable transportation is that justice 40. Go ahead.
And so from that standpoint, one of the most premier and marquee programs within the department transportation that literally touched upon a number of those key points we talked about earlier, is our rollout of the 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country, we are literally supercharging an entire new marketplace supercharging and building a new infrastructure platform that our kids our grandkids are going to look at us and say, did you do this right? Just last week, we announced our 180 Day guidance for our Navy former program and eventually launching our discretionary grant, why is that important? Right now state do T’s are sitting on $7.5 billion, they have been waiting for us to tell them how to act do they need to spend it? One key aspect of that guidance, as well as the 90 day guidance that we gave several, several weeks ago, really emphasize one key point that only you’re touching on which is we are as each day has to actually issue what’s called a state plan of like how they’re going to execute. One of the things we’re asking them to tell us, how are you engaging, underserved overburden communities, key stakeholders in their eco space where there’s HBCUs, whether it’s small business, disadvantaged business enterprises, who can actually do the following, build the darn things? Right, locate them, make sure they have maintenance? And also how are you intersecting that with other community groups and ensure that the placement of these important infrastructure is actually providing community benefit. Now, those state plans are gonna be public, those state plans will have to be engaged agencies will have to go to those communities and what justice for they actually afford a lot of us to do as agencies is to publicly say, and we had to do this, in partnership with the Department of Energy, we basically said to the states, here are the communities that we want you to prioritize. Now, for you as advocates, those who are in the commune development space, I’m asking you, if you’re in that map, activate, because we are looking for you to be present in those state plans as we reviewed them. So that’s one key place that we’re tracking. And of course, we’re going to be tracking jobs and Workforce Performance. But of course, this is also an opportunity for us to engage our labor colleagues, right, because they are a key aspect and key instrument and making sure that we meet our promise that the President has made. The last few days I’ll just emphasize here is that Department of Transportation recognizes we can’t do this alone, we are grant risk, we give money out. We don’t build bridges, we don’t grow trains, we have to give and we work in partnership with partners. But one of the things we also recognize is that we can’t just leave the workforce in the industry alone. And so one of the things I’m just really excited about my colleague, pay seven who we brought in recently, as our cgj advisor on workforce development, she is literally have created a new MOU between the Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor. And where we are actually working side by side and identifying what technical assistance dollars are needed. And where is it on the grantmaking side? Is it on the workforce development side? And if so, how do we deliver that out and I think that’s going to morph is going to be stated on that very, very soon. But working hand in glove or hand in hand with Department of Labor, leveraging their technical skills that can actually go to community based organization is going to be phenomenal and huge. The last thing I’ll say here in turn more of how we’re driving workforce is the fact that within an apartment transportation, just like some of our sister agencies, we issued a equity action plan. A key aspect and one key pillar of our equity agenda is around wealth creation. And in order for us to go, Yes, that’s right. In order for us to, you know, serve in the bullet pulpit with our secretary, where we’re saying we want to drive these dollars to the communities have been underserved, overburdened, but also lifting all boats, we recognize we got to walk the walk and talk to talk. And as such, we have committed to ourselves that we are going to increase our disadvantage in small business utilization. Right now we’re hovering about 18%, as of last two fiscal years, just this fiscal year, we say, You know what, we’re going to be ambitious, we’re gonna go to 20%. With the idea that by 2022, we hopefully we get up to 22 to 25%. And right now, we’re getting pretty darn close to meeting that mark by the end of this fiscal year. So again, we are working with Shelby scales, who may have you know, who is managing our, our office for our small business utilization. She’s partnered with HBCUs, local CDFIs. To use her resources. Well, those loans was a technical assistant grants, and leveraging her dollars with SBA to again, build that ecosystem that can actually be ready to now and receive these dollars for also lead the future on the innovation. That was something
That was excellent. Okay, thank you. Karen, do you want to add to that?
Absolutely. And I’ll add another grant opportunity to it as well. We just can’t get it, get it out fast enough. So, you know, similarly, we are a funding agency there. We can’t do it alone. We we don’t train the workforce, but we can empower states and communities to train the workforce to get the workforce that’s needed. And technical assistance is a huge part of that. So we have technical assistance that we’re putting out to communities to make sure that people are aware of these opportunities, that contracting is being done in compliance with, you know, Minority Business Enterprises, disadvantaged business, business enterprises, a lot of communities have small business enterprise goals and, and requirements that they are moving forward. And so so we’re pushing that information out, we’re pushing that information forward, also engaging with states and what other technical assistance do you need community? What are you hearing from your communities, communities? What technical assistance? Are you seeing a need for in your community? And how can we help and get that information out so that we can best prepare everybody to get the funding spent to get it into the communities that need it the most, and we’ll see the largest impact and the largest benefits from it. And one opportunity, the grant opportunity that I mentioned, is actually not part of the bipartisan infrastructure law Congress afforded us for the past three years, a water workforce grant opportunity, not a whole lot of dollars there than not in the billions in the low millions, but still really an exciting opportunity for communities to come together, partner with water utilities, partner with universities, and come up with an innovative water workforce approach to train those individuals that are looking for great family supporting jobs, and get them to work for water. So we we’ve had the 2022 is our third funding year, we should have an announcement coming out soon about that grant opportunity. We have just funded other I think it was 10 different 10 different programs. But we receive one thing that was so exciting about the first round of applicants that we that we saw come through we received 60 Different applicants, 52 of them were eligible applicants. That is so exciting. And that shows what need is out there for this water workforce planning and training opportunity workforce development opportunity. So we’re so excited that Congress has continued to fund it. When I mentioned, you know, it’s not bill funded. This is the type of opportunity that we’re looking for. We’re pulling out every single resource that we have, and utilizing the bill priorities that Congress had put has put out there that the Biden administration is moving forward to ensure that the funding is meeting those justice 40 goals. that we’re really tracking higher than 40%. EPA has long, long been a proponent of environmental justice. And we’re just ecstatic that we have the resources to move forward environmental justice in general. And that, of course, includes racial equity and inclusion, making sure that we’re getting people to jobs, making sure that we’re writing those historic wrongs. So really excited about that. So watch out for that, that water workforce opportunity, we will have an announcement coming up later this year. But really excited about how we’re seeing that need come in and that ask come in much more than the funding, because then we can go back and say, look at the need that’s out there. Let’s get more dollars to this program. And I’m so excited about when we start showing some successes out of that program. The bottom line is the money is there. Vice President Kamala Harris was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I keep bringing up Milwaukee is like I never left was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin back in January. And she highlighted to the labor community that the need is there, the money is there, come get the jobs be and really, you know, put them to task to say, we’re going to hire people, we’re going to train people up. This is five years, this is not one year of funding towards led service line replacements, which many utilities have had to deal with, just year by year trying to get the funding in place. Contractors aren’t going to build up their workforce for for a one year opportunity. But when they see the amount of investment that the EPA is putting out over the next five years, they are going to grab people train people, they’re going to be making that investment in the communities, and we’re going to be giving them the tools and resources to make that happen.
We’re going to pause for a second for some housekeeping here. Christopher, do you need to step away and come back? Do you have how much time do you have left with us? I know you need to leave to for the nine minutes, nine minutes. Okay, that’s enough time for Meghan, to speak to the importance of the sort of the political landscape related to this work. What we saw in the bipartisan infrastructure law was part of a two part agenda. And it was an investment in sort of the bricks and mortar hardcore infrastructure with the emphasis on build back better investments in human capital and human infrastructure that languished in the Senate. So if you could speak to a little bit what’s what’s missing? What didn’t we get? What would it have meant for economic opportunity?
Yeah, and, you know, I’ll start by saying that I want to acknowledge that the infrastructure act is momentous historic levels of investment. So very exciting to see that package to see that that package did get passed. And it includes funding, you know, for for water resources, transportation resources, as we’ve heard, as well as for broadband and other kinds of environmental resources, or cleanup, energy, investment, etc. That said, a lot of that work did remain to be does remain to be done. So for example, the build back better Act contains historic levels of funding for affordable housing for rental programs, for resources for public housing, to fix it up, make it healthier, and broaden the amount of affordable housing that is available for people, as well as you know, a suite of other funding packages that didn’t manage to make it through the Senate. And so advocates are continuing to push for those things and lift them up, even as we are focusing on the implementation of the infrastructure package at the same time, because we do see those programs that didn’t get funded as being equally critical to serving our communities. The other thing that I would say about the infrastructure package is that in part because it is bipartisan, it didn’t have what I think a lot of advocates would have said was an ideal amount of pointing towards equity outcomes or equity directives, they’re actually within the legislative text of that bill. So there’s a lot of potential around the funding that is in that legislation, and that was funded, but it’s really being left to the agencies to implement that, to come up with the program designs that are going to make sure that that money gets where we want it to go and to spend in the ways that we want it to, and that also that harm isn’t done that mirrors some of those historical harms in the past. So very fortunately, as you’ve heard, you know, they have an arsenal of tools at their disposal, their competitive grant programs where they have a lot of discretion to identify, you know, what kind of projects are going to be competitive at the local or state state level in order to be awarded Funding, you know, they have enforcement arms to engage in civil rights oversight. You know, they have technical assistance resources. And of course, the stakeholder engagement efforts that we’re seeing within the administration now, all of which are incredibly important tools to make sure that this money is spent the way that we want it to be said, that said, there are pre existing challenges, right, because we are working often within, you know, existing program design. So a lot of the transportation programs that were funded, were pre existing programs, and DOD is stepping in and reshaping those, but there are some existing challenges there. So one is that enforcement resources within the federal government have been severely depleted over the years. And so, you know, one thing that we’ve seen in these legislative packages is more recent sources for enforcement within those agencies. They’re all charged with enforcing civil rights laws, making sure that these programs comply with civil rights directives, but often, they just haven’t had the personnel to be able to do that. Or they’ve had to make really hard decisions around enforcement priorities. So, you know, we’ll, you know, we’ll bring in complaints around sort of particular circumstances of individual discrimination. But maybe that means we don’t have the resources to engage in, you know, systemic oversight, and really push for systems change at the state or local level. So really hard decisions within those oversight structures when you have a lack of resources. And so it’s been great to see that there are additional resources that are there within the budgeting process that are starting to flow out the door. Another challenge is that a lot of these programs are designed with a lot of state or local discretion or as block grants. And so this was actually a policy shift that we saw, in many arenas, under Reagan, sort of in the 80s, a lot of social programs were eliminated, but then a lot of other programs were converted, from programs that serve really specific social policy is to these block grants. So there’s a lot of talk around, you know, local control, or federalism and state control. But what that really has translated to in practice is that often that money is is still flowing to the people who are the most financially and politically empowered within those communities, rather than having really specific requirements attached to it as far as flowing to, you know, the people who are the most in need. And so as you’re hearing that agencies are doing a lot of work to sort of rewire the way that those programs work, you know, but it’s, it’s a big lift, and that cuts across a lot of different agencies. And capacity varies among the agencies, you know. So it’s, it’s a varying level of challenge, I would say, from agency to agency.
So what I’m hearing, Megan, though, is that that’s an opportunity for advocacy, when we when we know that there are these big, big budget items that are coming down the pike, this is an opportunity for organizations to to conduct their Hill days and lobby for more specific and targeted funding streams for the communities that we care about.
Yeah, and and to think that, you know, I think, often engagement with civil rights laws and enforcement is something that people have encountered with a degree of cynicism, because it hasn’t necessarily been working, the way that it’s designed to, and the way that it should be done. Now, I think we are seeing sort of a new momentum there and a re energizing and a reinvestment. And so I certainly encourage people in communities to think about, you know, how can you play that sort of constructive role from the outside, either by going to, you know, community engagement platforms, meetings, or sometimes by, you know, bringing, bringing litigation, you know, or filing a complaint, and that’s a way to document a problem, bring it to the agency’s attention, and the federal agencies have a role to engage that and say, you know, this problem has been brought to us it’s been documented, it’s part of our role, you know, as, as the entity that is bringing the civil rights to fruition to go in and actually, you know, investigate that situation on the ground and, you know, make that right, you know, actually come into the end.
Wonderful. Okay, so I have additional questions. Most of them I’ll just flag for my panel are related to the equity action plans and carrying out the executive order. I have some questions related to to which which tools the the audience can eat most easily access to get more information. But I want to flag for the audience members, we’re about to hit q&a. So if you have questions, would you please stand up stand in line in a socially distanced fashion so you know, maybe a couple feet behind the person in front of you. Before we take our first question, I will and I’m going to start with with my senior st over in the corner, who I understand is not going to go to the microphone. But before we get to our first question I want to ask Christopher do you need to if you need to step out do before you step out Let us know what what’s the one resource that you want the audience to leave with as their website? Is there something they should be following?
Absolutely. For our department we have, we are tracking all of our bill announcements, availability of resources, as well as our new initiatives on our website. So go to www.transportation.gov/bil. Or just to go to our website, and we co host resources. Also just know that we will be launching what’s called a thriving communities initiative, which is to support capacity builders and our 10 major regions to actually identify nonprofits, both large or small, to provide direct capacity to these communities. And for us, we want to have a new pipeline at the end of this infrastructure timeline, that when we go back to Congress to ask for another reauthorization, we can show that not only are there needed projects, but there are actually capacity to deliver them. So definitely call you to those. So again, thank you for the opportunity again, dear friend, and to all my friends here. We love to stand in partnership with all of you as we move this forward.
Thank you so much. Get let’s give him a round of applause. Okay, and now we can take our first question, the beautiful young lady in blue, if you could please say your name where you’re from.
Audience Question 1:01:19
Thank you. Yes, my name is Ramona Taylor Williams and I hail from the Mighty Mississippi. I wanted to ask some questions for Christopher, but I’m going to get his direct contact information. I’m gonna contact him directly. As I stated, I am from Mississippi, I live in Jackson, Mississippi. And we have major major, major issues around water and lead in our water. In fact, Jackson is under a long time consent decree. Unfortunately, we are having some issues, getting resources into our communities in order to abate delay at in our lines. I’m also concerned about the win program, and how it appears that Mississippi State University who I partner with ain’t got no problem with that. They have the wind funding, but I’m concerned that HBCUs are not being involved and they are not getting their fair share of the spending of these funds that millions of dollars about I’m a great grandmother, my great grandson is going to be paying back this money. And I want to make sure that he has a benefit or return on the investment that I make on the investment that he is going to ultimately make we got issues in Mississippi. And let me give you a for instance real quick and I know I don’t want to take up everybody’s time. But I have to take advantage of the opportunities that are here….your point when he Okay, Senator wicker for he earmarked and I know they say we don’t have earmarks anymore, but we do know we do he earmarked for water and sewer. Lord, He earmarked for water and sewer funding of $13.6 million for the town of Clinton, which is majority white $10 million for Meridian $10 million for Oxford $10 million to Rankin County, and $10 million for Madison County with this now the most wealthiest county in the state of Mississippi $0 for the city of Jackson. We need to do something about this. We need to do something about this. If we’re going to we can’t just let equity be a generic word like pampers and gasoline. We got to make equity mean equity. Thank you.
So I would love to follow up with you to hear a little bit more about some of the issues specific to Jackson because that’s part of the reason why I’m here is to make sure that we are engaging directly with our community partners and hearing where those needs are. We do as as I mentioned, we have a technical assistance program that we’ll be announcing probably early Fall late summer on led service line inventories and identification and replacement. We also have a technical assistance pilot that will be moving out related to closing the wastewater access gap because we know that wastewater in rural communities is very difficult, as well, as I had mentioned earlier, we’re also piloting a program where we’ll have teams come into certain communities, and just gather an understanding of where those technical assistance needs are, and where the need is the greatest so that we can identify the resources and get those resources to the communities in a quick manner. Finally, I’ll mentioned we do, we do have new requests for applications that are out for environmental finance centers, and for accessing some of those technical assistance opportunities and the grant funding for some of our more traditional programs, but also adding the bill funding in there. So we have a lot of resources, and I would love to hear more.
Fortunately, I can afford to talk about maybe going to Starbucks so that everyone can talk. However, there aren’t so many people who can afford to buy water and it’s killing them.
Thank you. Thank you for your question. And for your powerful testimony. It’s so important. I hope you all can connect after the panel. And for our next member of the audience, please introduce yourself, tell us where you’re from what organization you represent.
Audience Question 1:06:37
Sure. Hi, I’m Oscar Perry Abello. I’m the economic justice reporter at next city. I really wish Christopher was leader for this question. But maybe you can answer to speak to this at the EPA. On Did I miss something maybe maybe I missed something. But I thought someone would bring up the local hiring ban here. There’s two folks on this side of the microphone. Does everyone here know about the local hiring ban Did something happened to it that I didn’t know about? Because as far as I know, it’s still mostly in place. Even though the bipartisan infrastructure bill partially repealed it, but I think it’s still mostly in place. And if we’re talking about investing some of these dollars in the communities we’re talking about. The local hiring managers still seems to be something that maybe we need to talk about more. Or maybe I missed something.
I’m not familiar with it. Maybe Maybe Secretary Coes would be familiar with it. And when the local hiring ban, you mean local hiring ban as it applies to the District of Columbia?
No, this is a federal infrastructure spending ban on local hiring preferences for federally supported infrastructure projects, was created under Reagan in the 80s.
I’m not familiar, I don’t know if Megan or Karen, are you able to speak to this at all?
So I, you know, I certainly am not as well versed in this as I am in water infrastructure issues. But I know that that is a concern with many local communities. And this is kind of going back to when I was in Milwaukee, just a very, very lengthy two months ago, I was actually serving as the interim Commissioner of Public Works for the City of Milwaukee. And so this came up under a transportation issue, as well as a in a water infrastructure issue. And the the issue primarily is that, and this came up, particularly for our PA funding, that that was going out to communities and communities were forced to rebid programs and projects that were already underway because the local preferences, Milwaukee in particular had a what was called an RPP, the residential preference program that, that put goals on publicly funded projects to hire within certain zip codes. And the the federal funding doesn’t allow for that much, much like the federal funding doesn’t allow for the local definition that many communities have of small business enterprises that put a geographic requirement on it. I I don’t know enough to be able to speak on where that but just for the education of the community. I do know that local officials and and local attorneys are closely closely tracking this and it was my understanding that there were some opportunities to to move that funding forward, particularly for our BI I’m not sure how it relates to the bill. But I would presume that it would be similar to move that funding forward with some of those local preferences as long as they were more stringent than the federal requirements rather than less
Interesting. Okay, we have that’s exactly what I’m talking about.
But I certainly you know, do Do your research on it?
Thank you. I can’t speak to that question directly, either. But I would note, you know, to the question of, you know, how can we foster better hiring practices that promote equity, some of the other initiatives that were within the build back better act, and unfortunately, it didn’t move forward, regarded recruitment, outreach training for people that had been in contact with the criminal justice system, as well as outreach to foster youth, as well as recruitment pipelines to historically black colleges and universities. So I think it is a you know, it’s an important issue and merits creative thinking, and certainly some policy reforms as well.
Thank you for that. And for the next member of our audience, we have about 15 minutes left, ladies and gentlemen. So if you have questions, please feel free to raise them. And if not, I have a few for the panelists as well. Great, thank you. handled.
Thank you, we call them federal cross cutters.
Audience Question 1:11:13
Hi, guys, afternoon, I Bob Sudanic in Essen, former director of special initiatives at NCRC. But I’m back in California. And I’m bringing the two rural coalition, the San Joaquin Valley housing collaborative, which I’m interim director, and California coast for rural housing. And I want to talk to you Karen about water and drought. We have over a million people in California do not have water, no access to fresh water. And none of them are farmworkers because our works mostly in the central San Joaquin Valley, which is where the majority farmworkers and also receive a drought, people are losing water wells. And then there’s getting contaminants. It’s a it’s a huge crisis. And then we have small towns that have zero, I mean, Fresno has a lot of capacity, but some of the small towns that zip and so it’s really become a crisis that is growing with the drought and the water issues in you know, throughout California and part of the West, but notably in the San Joaquin Valley. And so what types of strategy, do you have these funding opportunities, but hopefully some we can start targeting some of them towards some of these communities that have no water?
Yeah, so and you’re obviously very well versed in this. So you’re likely very much aware that the Vice President Kamala Harris was recently visited California to roll out that the plan to discuss and address resiliency within our water systems, particularly in the West, and we’re working with our offices working very closely with the White House on that plan and looking at strategies on how we can address this very important issue. I will say, you know, the the bill funding that that has been put out, there are some opportunities or some synergies there, where that that clean water SRF funding can be put as a resource. Certainly I discussed the emerging contaminants funding that that was included in the bipartisan infrastructure law. So there are some synergies and some opportunities that I think are very much in alignment of addressing the drought conditions and and that ongoing climate impacts overall, you know, addressing climate impacts, is is an overarching theme in all of our funding and looking at making sure that states and encouraging states to fund projects that have those very important priorities is one thing that we’re focusing on, but I think there’ll be there’ll be more to come with those strategies coming out.
Great, because I did the climate change workshop yesterday. But I think if we can be in conversations, we have a couple of really key. I don’t want to belabor it, we have a couple of key networks. And there’s some unique issues that we’re dealing with Redwater got some really good solutions, but capacity and resources.
Yeah. technical, technical assistance is going to be the game changer.
I have another question for the panelists, as we have another member of our audience walking to the Moscone concluded 315 Oh, no, we’re gonna session starts at three. My apologies. I thought we went to 330. And my sincere apologies. Really quickly. Let’s one last question
Audience Question 1:14:19
earlier. Karen, you and Chris, were talking about the programs? They’re going to be funded discretionary discretionary monies, use the word it wasn’t disadvantaged. Do you remember what’s the word communities?
It was disadvantaged
It was disadvantaged? How are you going to find that for the community? So that’s my question. How do you define that?
Yeah. So I want to separate two things a little bit because I know Chris was talking about discretionary funds. We we have some discretionary funds, but they’re not necessarily associated. I would pull that apart from the definition of disadvantaged communities. But I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit more about disadvantaged communities some definitions. Heard the Safe Drinking Water Are act states are obligated to set the definition of disadvantaged communities. We know that some states have inadequate definitions of disadvantaged communities. So part of the bipartisan infrastructure laws state State Revolving Fund implementation memo that we put out in March that I mentioned, addresses that and give states some of the ideas that they should be prioritizing medium household income, for example, to better defined disadvantaged communities. It also encourages states to kind of look at their definition of community. So if there is a water infrastructure program that is going to a city that has not historically fallen into the definition of disadvantaged communities, because maybe some members of that city are, are more well off than other members, or it’s it’s a size issue where the state’s definition of disadvantaged communities is really just small communities, because of an affordability criteria, we’re encouraging states to look at if there’s a water infrastructure project that focuses on a portion a disadvantaged community portion of a larger community than they should consider that to be fundable under that 49% principal forgiveness and, and grant opportunity. The other thing that I’ll add to that is we have a report coming out very soon here that analyzes all the state’s definitions of disadvantaged communities, and really lays it out nicely of where states are at currently, because we wanted that baseline so that as we go through fiscal year 2022, and I have a staff member when you will, she’s super smart. And we got it. Yeah. Oh, sorry. I can talk. So we’re also looking at those intended use plans when they come into the states and they are talking about what their definition is to ensure that there is progress and so that we can identify where those leads are better engage those states that aren’t changing their definition.
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