Here's How Much of the Infrastructure Bill Goes to Disaster Relief

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Sep. 3 2021, Published 2:01 p.m. ET

The bipartisan infrastructure bill has been through many forms already, and it hasn't even come to life. In its latest move, the Senate passed the infrastructure bill, but it must still hold its weight in the House. Given recent disasters from Hurricane Ida, the need for disaster relief infrastructure becomes even more glaring.

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How much of that $1 trillion is reserved for disaster relief, and when might state and local governments be able to put the money into action?

The infrastructure bill stands to deliver $550 billion in new spending overall

In its latest iteration, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill stands to deliver $550 billion in new federal spending. When it eventually comes to light, the logistics of that figure might change.

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That's a lot smaller than the $2 trillion plan that President Biden proposed in March. Within the plan, funding would be provided to rebuild tens of thousands of miles of roadways, repairs some of the nation's most fiscally important bridges, and eliminate lead pipes from the nation’s water supplies. Eliminating lead pipes is crucial for areas like Flint, Mich., where residents have been troubled by lead in their drinking water for years.

Disaster relief makes up $46 billion of that money

According to the details of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, $46 billion would be reserved for disaster relief. As Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans at a category 4 level, and subsequently traveled up the east coast as a tropical storm leading to deadly flooding, the need for disaster relief through infrastructure has become all the more apparent.

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As of the afternoon of Sept. 3, at least 61 people across eight U.S. states have died from Hurricane Ida's impact. Much of that is due to flooding in urban areas like New York City and Philadelphia.

The government defines this disaster relief as defending against coastal flooding, relocating vulnerable communities, and building infrastructural resilience against disaster.

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The billions spent after Hurricane Katrina seemed to have worked.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the U.S. government spent $14.5 billion to build new levees, floodgates, and other lines of defense in the sub-sea-level city of New Orleans and surrounding areas.

That spending seemed to have worked. Hurricane Ida caused major damage in the area, but it wasn't anywhere near as impactful as Katrina. The levees and floodgates stood their ground.

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Where the bipartisan infrastructure bill currently stands

Now, the bipartisan infrastructure bill—including the $46 billion reserved for disaster relief—awaits approval in the House.

House progressives want the bill to pass in tandem with a $3.5 trillion bill that addresses climate change at its core, rather than simply building infrastructural defenses. As Democrats and Republicans squabble, people across the nation are picking up the pieces at work and home. They're dealing with the tangible logistics of natural disasters like hurricanes, flash floods, and wildfires. The urgency for solutions is picking up as climate change worsens and the viability of our current trajectory diminishes.

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