By Johnathan Hladik
The newly-passed infrastructure package approved by Congress last week promises to reach every corner of the country, and for rural America, funding for water and sewer, broadband internet, and electrical projects could have the most impact.
A $11.7 billion annual increase for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds will assist small towns in making much-needed drinking water and sewage system upgrades. The federal-state partnership provides low-interest loans to eligible communities to improve their drinking water supply, build wastewater facilities, or fund other necessary water quality projects.
With internet access becoming a critical component of everyday life, the package also includes $48.2 billion in broadband funding appropriated to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The funding will be used to help lower the price households pay for internet service by requiring federal funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan, by creating price transparency, and by boosting competition in areas where existing providers aren’t providing adequate service.
As more communities and utilities look to renewable energy, having a robust transmission system is key to linking those systems to homes and businesses. The infrastructure plan provides a $65 billion investment to rebuild the electric grid, which will make it easier to develop renewable energy in areas now far from a grid connection.
A safe and healthy water system, affordable broadband access, and a reliable electric grid are basic elements we all depend on. As state and federal officials undertake the hard work of developing programs and identifying worthy projects, local leaders can begin to solicit feedback and generate ideas. Communities must have strong infrastructure in place in order to sustain and grow, and we urge everyone to participate in this generational opportunity.
Hladik is Policy Director for Center for Rural Affairs.