TUE AM News: Wisconsin to get billions in federal dollars through infrastructure bill; Dems, some business groups applaud House passage of legislation

— Wisconsin is expected to receive billions of dollars in federal funding for public transportation, bridge repairs, electric vehicle charging stations, broadband expansion and more through the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

A fact sheet from the White House details state-specific funding to be provided through the legislation, which recently passed the U.S. House and is expected to be signed into law soon by President Biden.

Based on formula funding, the state is expected to receive $5.2 billion for highway improvements and $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs over the next five years, the fact sheet shows. Wisconsin has 979 bridges and over 1,949 miles of highways that are in poor condition, per the fact sheet, and drivers are estimated to pay $547 per year due to driving on roads that need repairs.

The state is also expected to receive $592 million over five years to expand public transportation. And Wisconsin is expected to get $79 million over five years to expand its charging network for electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, airports in Wisconsin are expected to get about $198 million over the next five years for infrastructure development under the bill.

Using the traditional state revolving fund formula, the White House estimates Wisconsin will also be getting $841 million over five years to improve water infrastructure and expand access to “clean, safe” drinking water.

Wisconsin will also receive at least $100 million to expand broadband coverage, including connecting the estimated 318,000 state residents who don’t currently have coverage. The fact sheet shows 5.5 percent of state residents live in areas with no broadband infrastructure, and 14 percent of households in the state don’t have an internet subscription at all. Under the infrastructure bill, about 22 percent of people in the state will be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, which helps provide internet access for low-income households.

The state is also expected to get $20 million over five years to protect against wildfires and $18 million to protect against cyberattacks, the fact sheet shows. It notes that Wisconsin experienced 16 extreme weather events in the past decade or so that collectively cost the state up to $10 billion in damages.

See the fact sheet: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/WISCONSIN_Infrastructure-Investment-and-Jobs-Act-State-Fact-Sheet.pdf

— Democrats as well as labor and agriculture groups in the state are applauding passage of the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill, arguing the funding will help create jobs and strengthen the state’s economic recovery.

Dem Gov. Tony Evers calls the bill’s passage “a win for Wisconsin.”

“Now, because of President Biden’s efforts to pass this once-in-a-generation infrastructure plan, we’ll be able to build on the progress we’ve made these past two years and continue our work fixing our state’s crumbling roads, investing in lead pipe replacement, and expanding access to broadband across our state,” Evers said in a statement.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler said the bill’s passage “represents the Democratic Party’s continued commitment to and investment in” the state’s future.

“Families across the state will sleep easier at night knowing that their roads are in better condition, that their drinking water is clean, and that their bridges are more resilient to the impacts of climate change — all thanks to President Biden and Democrats in Congress,” he said in a statement.

But Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are slamming the legislation, arguing it doesn’t invest enough into traditional infrastructure such as bridges and roads.

“We should be making investments in our nation’s infrastructure, but through a smart, targeted approach that is focused on real infrastructure,” GOP U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil said in a release. “Unfortunately, this bill is not paid for, will fund Green New Deal subsidies, and only directs a small portion of spending towards improving our roads and bridges.”

Following the vote, U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzerald said House Democrats have an “unconscionable” disregard for taxpayer dollars.

“If we thought inflation was bad now, then we better buckle up because it’s about to get a lot worse,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “The Democrat party needs to reign in their out-of-control spending, the American people cannot afford the debt of their socialist agenda.”

Steve Baas, executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, says every dollar spent on roads and bridges under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will generate more than $3 in additional economic impact in the state.

“The bipartisan IIJA’s additional investment in our transportation infrastructure will help position Wisconsin’s economy for future growth and allow us to compete more effectively and win more consistently in the 21st Century global marketplace,” he said in an email.

Robb Kahl, executive director of the Construction Business Group, says the “significant magnitude and breadth of these investments cannot be overstated.” He applauds Biden and members of Congress for their willingness to “set aside politics and work in a bipartisan fashion to get this transformational piece of legislation passed.”

Wisconsin Laborers’ District Council President and Business Manager John Schmitt says the council is grateful “that the House has delivered these investments to create jobs and strengthen our economy.” The group represents around 9,000 construction craft laborers in the state.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden calls the bill’s funding “a historic investment” in critical infrastructure for farmers and rural communities.

“The effects of this effort will be far-reaching, as the bill aims to strengthen our food supply chain through tremendous investment in the transportation infrastructure that family farmers rely on,” he said in a statement. “Provisions of the bill will also help us bridge the gap on broadband access, respond to and begin countering the climate crisis, and reduce supply chain bottlenecks.”

The Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin says the legislation will provide “long-overdue investments” to help rebuild infrastructure in the state and nation. 

“The increased investment in road, public transportation, rail, port, and airport infrastructure will lead to more good-paying jobs, greater economic competitiveness, enhanced mobility, and improved safety,” the group said in a statement. 

Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still says the electric vehicle infrastructure investments are “potentially a really good thing” for the state, as greater availability of charging stations could lead to more people using these vehicles. 

“As the transition continues, having the right infrastructure in a state like Wisconsin — which has a lot of square miles, a lot of rural areas — people will be more prone to adopt electric vehicles like trucks, cars, perhaps even tractors and farm equipment, if they know a reliable charging station is within reach,” he told WisBusiness.com. 

Still underlined the importance of the cybersecurity funding coming through the legislation, noting the rate of cyberattacks has ramped up recently and poses a serious risk to many companies. He also said he hopes the rulemaking process around this bill is “a lot faster” than for the American Rescue Plan Act, particularly around broadband due to the time and physical distances involved with expanding access. 

“In order for this to have the desired economic effect, it has to be deployed pretty quickly,” Still said. 

— The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced that agency-approved lenders have loaned over $1 billion to small businesses in the state over the year ending Sept. 30. 

SBA District Director Eric Ness says this is the first time SBA-approved lenders have delivered more than $1 billion in loans to Wisconsin small businesses in a single year. A total of 1,744 loans were provided between Oct. 1, 2020 and Sept. 30 of this year. 

Of that number, 1,326 loans for a total of about $775 million went toward working capital, supplies and equipment, a release from the agency shows. The total loan volume in this category was 36 percent higher over the year, with an increase of 69 percent in loan dollar value compared to the previous year. 

Another 341 loans for a total of nearly $298 million went toward long-term real estate and capital projects in the state, representing a 36 percent increase in loan volume and 45 percent increase in dollar amounts over the previous year. 

And 77 microloans of up to $50,000 with a total of $1.9 million went to small businesses in the state, marking a 9.4 percent decrease in loan volume and an 8 percent increase in dollar value over the year. 

See details on the loan activity: https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/resource_files/FY2021_WI_lending_7a_504_micro_Lender_Activity_508_Compliant.pdf 

— As Moderna prepares to file an emergency use authorization application for its pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, the Madison site for the company’s KidCOVE clinical trial says it’s shifting focus to younger kids aged 6 months to 5 years. 

“They have many trial sites across the country that have been doing this for many many months (even before ours started in August) so they felt they had enough data,” said Dr. Bill Hartman, an assistant professor in UW-Madison’s Department of Anesthesiology, in an emailed statement. 

He explained that researchers for the national clinical trial have sought enrollment of about 4,000 children in North America for both the vaccine and placebo control groups, across up to 100 study sites in the United States and Canada. 

A release from UW Health shows enrollment at the Madison site of kids aged 5 to 11 closed “just days” after researchers began accepting applications “thanks to a high volume of applicants.” UW Health says Moderna is currently analyzing the data from that cohort. 

The new focus on younger kids for the Madison study site comes on the heels of federal officials authorizing and recommending the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. Hartman says Moderna “will apply soon” for an emergency use authorization. 

Meanwhile, researchers at the Madison site are no longer enrolling children aged 5-11, but Hartman says “we have been given more spots” for those aged 6 months to 5 years. 

“We don’t have exact numbers because it is ongoing,” he told WisBusiness.com in the email. “But dozens… And more to come.” 

The release shows about 80 percent of the participants in Madison are from “underserved populations,” and might face health barriers based on “race, ethnicity, income, geography and health outcomes.” 

See more on the study here: https://www.med.wisc.edu/news-and-events/2021/august/uw-selected-for-moderna-vaccine-pediatric-trial/ 

See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2021/uw-health-moderna-covid-19-vaccine-pediatric-clinical-trial-to-focus-on-ages-6-months-to-5-years/ 

— The latest USDA crop report shows this year’s harvest season has largely wrapped up, with corn and soybean harvests nearing their end. 

The report shows 76 percent of grain corn was harvested as of Sunday, which is one day ahead of last year and 12 days ahead of the five-year average. And the soybean harvest was 93 percent complete. 

Winter wheat was 92 percent emerged, the report shows, and fall tillage was 61 percent complete. That’s three days ahead of last year and 12 days ahead of the five-year average. 

See the report: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wisconsin/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/2021/WI-Crop-Progress-11-08-21.pdf 

— An upcoming webinar will highlight the findings of a recent report focused on the economic impact of hiring in-state workers for solar projects in Wisconsin. 

The report, from Forward Analytics, found that hiring an in-state workforce for new solar developments could generate twice as much economic activity as relying on labor from outside the state. The webinar is being held Nov. 17. 

See details for the webinar and register here: 

Listen a recent podcast with Robb Kahl, executive director of Wisconsin Infrastructure Investment Now, which commissioned the report: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/wisbusiness-the-podcast-with-robb-kahl-executive-director-of-wisconsin-infrastructure-investment-now/ 

See a recent story on the report: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/report-highlights-impact-of-hiring-wisconsin-workers-for-solar-projects/ 


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<i>See these and other press releases: 

https://www.wisbusiness.com/press-releases/ </i>

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