Bipartisan bill would allow states to use federal funds it already has for infrastructure needs

WASHINGTON — Every state has millions and, in some places, billions of dollars in federal aid that hasn’t been used yet.

This funding from the federal CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan was initially approved for COVID-19 relief efforts.

But now lawmakers are working on a bill to give states more flexibility for those dollars.

“This is funding that’s already sitting in state local bank accounts. A lot of them are going through processes for how to spend it and this just gives them a huge increase in flexibility for the types of projects they can use,” said Georgia Congresswoman Carolyn Boudreaux, who is co-sponsoring this bill in the House.

Currently, there are restrictions limiting how states can use this money.  This bill would allow states to use 30 percent of those remaining federal funds for infrastructure needs.

The money could be used for several government programs including the National Highway Performance Program, Tribal Transportation Program, Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, and the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

“All of this is going to be really locally grounded. It’s local projects, local vision, and what we’re doing is providing more resources for those,” said Rep. Bourdeaux. “So, what you’re going to see initially is just a lot more projects, getting done things that we’ve needed for a long time being taken care of.”

This bill has already passed in the Senate and Republican Congressman Dusty Johnson is also co-sponsoring the bill.

In a statement, Rep. Johnson said “State governments need flexibility, and this bill is good policy. The CARES Act restricted local governments from utilizing relief dollars on certain critical infrastructure projects and the American Rescue Plan prohibits states from returning unused dollars. These are two areas that need to be improved and this bill accomplishes that goal. I’m grateful to Senator Cornyn for his leadership on the Senate companion.”