Historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Law Enacted

President Biden signed into law the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” (IIJA) on November 15, an act of Congress that represents the largest federal investment in infrastructure in more than a decade. The far-reaching legislation (1,039 pages) devotes approximately $1.2 trillion to “hard” or “traditional” infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, power grids, railways, public transportation, airports, ports, etc. Funds are also allocated for climate resilience and environmental remediation. (For a breakdown of the IIJA’s funding allocation, see the table and analysis provided by Denton’s here.)

The distinction between “hard” and “soft” (or “human”) infrastructure was an important and contentious political debate early in the legislative process. The latter element, which focuses heavily on labor, education, and other social spending and health care programs, such as Medicare, was originally included in the bill. However, this massive bill and attempt to redefine the meaning of traditional infrastructure lacked Republican support. By separating the two, the Biden administration is able to legitimately claim a major bipartisan victory. (The “soft” infrastructure element is now the basis of the “Build Back Better Act” languishing in Congress.) The IIJA has been widely supported by Main Street and Corporate America, as well as the vast majority of professional and industrial associations and trade unions.

The focus in Washington, DC is now shifting from legislation to implementing the new law. The ministries of transport and energy have the lion’s share of the work to do in this regard, but the agencies responsible for agriculture, the environment and trade will also be responsible for setting up programs and spending (and track) newly allocated dollars. This responsibility will trickle down to states and localities, which often have the direct task of designing, approving, and executing infrastructure projects. (A suite of infographics breaking down federal and state spending mechanisms published by McKinsey can be viewed here.) The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will also be busy, as the IIJA creates a new “Made in America” ​​office to implement Buy America preferences in iron, steel and metal. ‘other building materials, as well as a “BuyAmerican.gov” website.

While the new law will affect a wide range of industries, here are some key points print and packaging manufacturers should note:

  • The IIJA is not necessarily a quick stimulus bill designed to fund “shovel-ready” projects. Rather, it is a major generational investment and a longer-term philosophy of how the federal government will fund complete “hard” infrastructure in the future.
  • Supply chain issues – which printers and packers feel acutely today – will not be resolved immediately by the enactment of the IIJA. Again, the majority of the spending in the new law will take months (or years) to implement. To be sure, there are positive long-term provisions that will reduce port, trucking and rail supply chain crises in the future, but the law is designed as a short-term economic jolt.
  • Efforts to improve USPS transportation efficiency have been included as part of the IIJA. Specifically, $8.98 billion has been allocated for the federal purchase of electric vehicles to modernize the Postal Service fleet. This will serve to improve the outlook for USPS finances in the future, as the aging vehicle fleet is seen as a cost drain.
  • Printers who pivoted (and perhaps remained) into PPE production during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic should note that the IIJA has incorporated language from the “Make PPE in America Act,” which will require PPE purchased by the Departments of Homeland Security, HHS, and VA to be produced domestically through minimum two-year contracts. OMB is also responsible for releasing a report outlining long-term strategies for PPE produced in the United States.
  • Sustainability was addressed by the IIJA through the incorporation of the bipartisan Senate “RECYCLE Act,” supported by the PRINTING United Alliance, which authorizes and fully funds for five years a new federal grant program through the EPA focused on educating households and consumers about residential and community recycling. programs. The printing industry has endorsed recycling education as a key pillar that must be included in any legislation focused on paper and plastics recovery.
  • While offsets to pay the IIJA included reallocating billions of unused COVID-19 relief funds (such as unclaimed PPP loans, unused government funds for enhanced unemployment insurance supplements and tax credits for unused paid and family leave), the law also enacts new fees and taxes to finance new expenses. Of note is the reinstatement of the Superfund tax on certain chemicals beginning in July 2022 and expiring at the end of 2031. PRINTING United Alliance had raised concerns with Congress about the taxation of inputs used for inks and printing processes ; however, the more than $14 billion associated with increased Superfund tax revenue to fund popular IIJA provisions proved too much for Congress to resist. (A list of chemicals included in the Superfund fee can be found in JDSupra’s table here.)

Overall, the IIJA represents a historic achievement and an investment in our nation’s infrastructure that will improve commerce, manufacturing, and the lives of individuals in general. Deploying IIJA funds and executing new programs will be a massive effort that will unfold over the next few months, if not years. PRINTING United Alliance will continue to monitor the rollout of the IIJA and its potential impact on the printing and packaging industry. In the meantime, for an in-depth analysis of the IIJA beyond the perspective of the printing industry, see Akin Gump’s report here (PDF).

Lisbeth Lyons is Vice President, Government and Policy Affairs at PRINT United Alliance. In this article, Lisbeth discusses the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act. You can find more information about the delivery and logistics policy at www.sgia.org or contact Lisbeth if you have additional questions specific to how these issues may affect your business: [email protected]

To become a PRINTING United Alliance member and learn more about how PRINTING United Alliance’s subject matter experts can help your business with services and resources like those mentioned in this article, please contact the Membership Team at the Alliance: 888-385-3588 / [email protected] impression.org.

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