On Nov. 15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $550 billion in new funding to invest in America’s roads, bridges, utilities and other needs on top of baseline government infrastructure spending via existing programs and annual appropriations. Much of the IIJA funding will be distributed to states and localities and other stakeholders through discretionary grant programs; however, the Biden administration continues to promote pro-labor policies tied to IIJA dollars.
As the bill made its way through Congress, ABC continued to advocate for merit shop priorities in the legislation, ultimately remaining neutral on the passage of the IIJA. Although the IIJA does not include project labor agreement mandates or PLA preferences, the bill does include an expansion of Davis-Bacon requirements and other provisions of concern to ABC.
ABC is now closely monitoring implementation of IIJA as funding allocations and notices of grant opportunities begin to emerge. A number of federal agency programs valued at more than $100 billion in infrastructure dollars have included pro-PLA language in their application criteria, which ABC will seek every opportunity to oppose.
On Nov. 10, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the expiration of a general waiver to Buy America requirements imposed by the IIJA. With this expiration, the IIJA’s expanded Buy America requirements are now in effect for most federally funded infrastructure projects.
ABC submitted comments advocating for the waivers that said while ABC supports strategies to expand domestic jobs and manufacturing to avoid global supply chain disruptions and capture economic benefits within America, Buy America requirements must be balanced with safeguards against delays of infrastructure projects funded by taxpayers and increased construction materials costs, which have ballooned by more than 36% since February 2020.
The IIJA creates an opportunity to effectively modernize our nation’s most critical infrastructure, and ABC stands ready to do the important work to bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st century. However, ABC remains wary of some of the bill’s exclusionary provisions and statements from the Biden administration that could restrict the eligibility of America’s workers to compete for and participate in these construction projects.
As the Biden administration begins to implement the IIJA, ABC and industry stakeholders will continue to support the Fair and Open Competition Act (H.R.1209/S.537 in the 118th Congress), which would prevent government-mandated PLAs on federal or federally assisted construction contracts. ABC members are encouraged to visit the ABC Action Center and urge their members of Congress to support FOCA.