Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson

Well, it seems that the pandemic isn’t quite over. The climate report is dire. And at a time when we thought some of the anxiety of the last year would be greatly reduced, we find ourselves still trying to cope with a world that seems to be out of our control.

But with all the distressing news that we are being inundated with, I wanted to bring up some good news. The U.S. Congress is trying to do their job — and succeeding! The Senate has finally approved an infrastructure bill. We have known that infrastructure problems in the U.S. have required attention for years. The reports just keep getting worse about crumbling roads and bridges like the I-35W bridge that collapsed a few years ago, or the power grids not being able to supply reliable power like what happened in Texas last year, or our drinking water being contaminated with lead from old and deteriorating pipes like what happened in Flint, Michigan. Yet Congress and presidents over the last decade have not been able to agree on how to address these issues.

Well, it looks like it might finally happen.

The bipartisan bill that passed the Senate last week is a big deal and good news. If passed by the House and signed by the president, this bill will provide funding for everything from broadband access to environmental cleanup.

There is money in the bill to replace our lead pipes and get other contaminants out of our water systems. There is money in the bill to help build the infrastructure for electric vehicle use. There is money in the bill to strengthen our power grid system. There is money in the bill to expand broadband access to rural areas. There is money to help mitigate the effects of wildfires, drought and floods which are increasingly destructive as our climate changes.

And of course, there is money in the bill to inspect, repair, and expand traditional infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports, and public transportation.

A second infrastructure bill has also passed a hurdle in the Senate. A framework has been passed for a human infrastructure bill that could authorize spending for things like an expanded child tax credit, paid family and medical leave, universal preschool, free community college, a summer food program for low-income families with kids, and subsidies for individual health insurance.

The bill could also include measures to tackle climate change, including tax incentives for clean energy and electric vehicles as well as a civilian climate corps.

What will actually end up in the human infrastructure bill is less certain, but what is certain is that the Senate and the House are interested in making some investments in our citizens. Just like traditional infrastructure (think the rural electrification project that brought electricity to every corner of our country) investments in our citizens particularly in the areas of food security, healthcare and education will bring benefits to the entire country.

Electricity on every farm helped spur an agricultural industry that not only feeds our country but delivers safe, nutritious food to many others around the world. Investing in the health and education of our citizens will likewise drive our economic engine, promote ingenuity and increase the quality of life for future generations of Americans. Investing in strategies to address climate change could affect the entire world.

The possibility that we may have not only one, but two infrastructure bills become law this year is exciting. Our government is attempting to address the major problems of our day and I urge you all to support those efforts. In an age where so much of the news is bad and solutions seem to be out of our hands, this tackling of the tough issues by our leaders is encouraging and welcome. This week was just the first step, but it’s good news; it provides a course of action — and I am grateful.

Beth Anderson is a Savage resident and a Community Voices contributor.