This morning, West Virginia Senate Democrats joined US Senator Joe Manchin (D) and state media to address the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress last week and its role in West Virginia. The bill is for physical infrastructure only. It does not address social infrastructure, such as childcare or medical care, which are in a separate bill that is still pending before Congress.
“The sun is shining in West Virginia today, because we are set to receive $6 billion to rebuild our physical infrastructure–roads, sewer, bridges, water, and broadband. We are grateful to Senator Manchin, Senator Capito, and Congressman McKinley for supporting the bipartisan physical infrastructure bill which President Biden will sign on November 15,” said Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier).
West Virginia should see around $6 billion invested in the state through this bill. $3.76B of this is for highways and bridges; $312M for public transit; $43M for airports; $487M for water and sewer investments. The bill also includes $600M for broadband. Manchin urged the state to create a plan for the funds and to have one in place when the money comes in, which senators indicated they support.
“We all know how far behind our roads, bridges, broadband, and water/sewer systems are,” said Baldwin. “For decades, they’ve needed major repairs. Now, we finally have the federal funding to rebuild. On the state and local level, we need to be ready. We need to have plans in place to replace old lead water pipes, to upgrade our broadband networks, and to pave the roads that are crumbling underneath our cars. These funds will flow through the state, so we need processes in place to ensure accountability and efficiency so that every dollar can go towards rebuilding. In the coming months, we look forward to working with all of our citizens and colleagues to get those plans in place so that we can finally rebuild West Virginia.”
West Virginia is set to receive at least $700B in Abandoned Mine Lands funds. During the press conference, Manchin and Senator Ron Stollings (D-Boone) discussed production of hydrogen, rare earth metals, and other opportunities that could specifically address coal-impacted community needs. Stollings advocated for consideration of hardship waivers for matching funds and technical grant assistance for coalfield communities, in addition to retraining out-of-work miners.
“The best news out of passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill is that it will create good paying jobs for West Virginians for the next for 8-10 years,” said Senator Richard Lindsay (D-Kanawha). “For example, we have thousands of unused wells that needs to be plugged and/or sealed. While our Democrat caucus has introduced legislation on a state level to put money aside for this purpose, it has never been taken up. Thankfully, the infrastructure bill addresses this need and will create good paying jobs in the process.”
“There shouldn’t be a person in West Virginia that wants a good job and is willing to work (and make top-notch wages) that won’t be able to have a job,” said Manchin.