As we celebrate our National Day of Thanksgiving this week, I am grateful that Congress was able to come together to pass a generational bipartisan infrastructure bill for the American people.
Last week, I watched from the White House lawn as President Biden officially signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. Not only am I proud to have supported this long overdue investment in our national infrastructure—the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Eisenhower administration—but I am overjoyed knowing that Missouri and the heartland will benefit tremendously from the public projects, quality services, and good-paying jobs it will provide.
I have said it many times before and the notion still rings true—the needs and challenges facing our rural communities are not intrinsically different from those of their urban and suburban counterparts. No matter where you come from, every American wants a quality job that keeps a roof over their head and food on the table, a safe community that everyone can take pride in, and a future filled with opportunity for their children to achieve the American Dream like so many have before us.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act not only recognizes this but contains key provisions that will help make that a reality in every community throughout the Show Me State.
This public works bill will create tens of thousands of jobs across Missouri and provide valuable opportunities to countless students, families, and small businesses. For example, as technology advances and the digital divide widens, I frequently hear from constituents in Odessa, Richmond, Marshall, and other towns in my district about the lack of access to quality, high-speed internet.
To address this divide, the bipartisan infrastructure bill will provide a minimum of $100 million to ensure 330,000 Missourians who currently lack internet service are able to access this critical infrastructure. Entrepreneurs and families will be able to grow their small businesses, stay connected to information, and be part of a growing workforce. Seniors will be able to utilize tele-health services that save time and money. Students will have access to online classes that were previously unavailable.
However, to make quality internet fully accessible, it has to be affordable. That’s why Congress included the new Affordability Connectivity Benefit, aimed at helping 1.6 million low-income families in Missouri afford internet service. Just like the interstate highway system was needed to transport people and goods, online networks act as a vehicle to transport information and allow communities to grow and flourish—and that’s precisely what we’re hoping to see once this investment in broadband starts making its way back home.
When it comes to the nation’s other physical infrastructure, much of it was designed in the 1950’s. Since then, our population has almost doubled as our roads and bridges, many of which have reached or far-exceeded their lifespan, continue to be overstretched. As a result, the average driver in Missouri pays $742 per year alone in transportation repairs.
To lower costs, increase economic activity, and create quality jobs, the bipartisan infrastructure bill will send more than $7 billion to pave brand-new roads, construct new and replace failing bridges, and make improvements to rail and port infrastructure that are critical to Missouri’s agriculture industry. This will allow economically significant bridges to be repaired and our ports expanded so that farmers, ranchers, and small businesses can deliver and receive their goods at lower costs.
Last but certainly not least, Missouri currently has the 6th most lead service pipes still in use in the country. No parent should have to worry about their child drinking lead-contaminated water that can cause serious health problems and hinder brain development in kids. The infrastructure package will provide Missouri with enough federal dollars to remove every lead pipe in the state and replace outdated drinking water systems so that every household and public school has clean drinking water, keeping our kids safe and their future bright.
America is at its best when we pull together to take on monumental challenges—and that’s when we make truly remarkable progress. President Biden has proven that we can still accomplish great things when we’re willing to set differences aside and focus on the common challenges before our great nation. The process of getting the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the president’s desk was messy. However, messy progress is still progress, nonetheless. Now, let us come together to leverage this federal funding for the betterment of every community across the Show Me State.
Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri's Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee's Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee; Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance; member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress; member of the Committee on Homeland Security; and a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus.