The Infrastructure Industry in the Wake of COVID-19 and the Impending 2020 Presidential Election
Shockwaves from the coronavirus pandemic and its ensuing nationwide shutdowns are still being felt in every industry across the U.S. But as many states begin to slowly reopen their businesses, many are wondering what’s next for the American economy and the future of public health. While nobody has the answers to those questions just yet, Vortex Companies feels that it’s important to take stock of the current state of our industry and the changes that have been made in 2020 thus far and the changes that will be considered or lobbied for in the upcoming election.
Spirits have also been lifted in the Water and Wastewater Systems Sector by the recent passage of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020). This act siphons crucial funding into the water infrastructure industry, which has seen setbacks as a result of slowdowns in manufacturing and non-essential construction work. It recognizes the essential work that we and so many other companies do every day to provide the country with the infrastructure and water systems it needs to continue running smoothly. Tom Carper (D – DE) said of the act, “Our country’s drinking water and wastewater systems, shipping channels and flood control structures are essential to our economy and way of life, but they are also in desperate need of improvements. AWIA 2020 will make badly needed improvements and investment in water infrastructure systems throughout the country.”
AWIA 2020 earmarks roughly $17 billion in federal authorizations to invest in infrastructure for water system projects across the country, a welcome relief to those businesses that have been struggling in the wake of the pandemic. It’s also expected to create jobs and grow the economy as workers are needed for projects, aiding an economy that has taken several devastating blows since the onset of the pandemic in March.
A similar bill, entitled the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act, is making its way through the United States House of Representatives. If passed, it will provide $23.5 billion in infrastructure investment over the next five years to address America’s crumbling wastewater infrastructure and local water quality challenges. Not only will these legislative acts provide improvements to infrastructure, but they’ll also help to support the businesses in the water infrastructure sector who have been impacted by the pandemic like so many others have.
Election Buzz and Contending Infrastructure Initiatives
While our goal is not to take an active political stance or communicate our personal opinions, it’s clear that the water and wastewater systems sector will be directly impacted no matter who takes the oath of office in January 2021. It’s important during an election period to consider how each candidate’s plans may affect the industries we work in as we move into another presidential term.
Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden
Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, entitled Build Back Better, aims to create jobs for American workers and build a sustainable economy through infrastructure improvements. Among his plans for the water and sewer industry:
• Investing in the creation of infrastructure jobs that give workers the chance to join a union so that they have the option to bargain collectively with their employers.
• Repairing water pipelines and sewer systems, replacing lead service pipes, upgrading treatment plants and integrating efficient and modern water quality monitoring technology.
• Protecting clean water infrastructure from man-made and natural disasters by developing green infrastructure and natural solutions.
Mr. Biden has pledged to allocate $2 trillion to infrastructure resources and plans to implement his platform’s changes throughout his first term. His ultimate goal with the Build Back Better plan is to emerge from the coronavirus crisis with modern, sustainable infrastructure and job creation that will enable the U.S. to deliver on a clean energy future.
President Donald Trump
Donald Trump’s infrastructure platform is largely focused on the goal of rebuilding and modernizing rural infrastructure and aims to enhance regional connectivity, grow small businesses and increase employment opportunities for those living in rural areas.
• Water and waste management projects will be implemented with the goal of ensuring rural families have access to clean water.
• Water resources will be enhanced with projects that aim to better manage flood risk and improve rural water supplies and waterways.
President Trump’s plan also provides states with the flexibility to address the infrastructure needs of each community, both rural and non-rural.
• Federal funding will be given to states without the limitations of asset-specific amounts, allowing them to spend money where it is needed most.
• Funds provided by the federal government will go directly to the state’s governor’s office, allowing governors to allocate funds to the individual infrastructure needs of each community.
Critical infrastructure repair and rehabilitation is vital to the country’s success, and although there was an initial slowdown due to COVID-19, momentum for these projects is gaining and will continue as local and city governments begin to reopen and work in new ways to get the job done while protecting the health and wellbeing of our communities. Vortex continues to consciously work safely and diligently to perform these critical tasks, and whichever way the political tide goes, we’re prepared to adjust and adapt to the objectives and goals of infrastructure improvement plans, with relentless hope for the future.
For more information on our work in the water and wastewater systems industry, please contact Wes Kingery, Executive Vice President of Vortex Services.