Finding The Key To An Economic, Resilient Bounce Back

Investing in infrastructure is the logical choice to bail us out

By now, COVID-19 and its residual effects have sunk in with the lives of millions across the globe. Many are out of consistent incomes, while some of those who were deemed “essential” by state governments are working on the front lines, such as health care professionals, grocery stores employees, and public works and construction workers.

If there’s one thing that this pandemic has shown us, it’s the fact that our infrastructure can be a key player to our economic rebound. Many aspects of infrastructure make dealing with this pandemic even possible. Not only do public works projects such as road maintenance and wastewater treatment allow society to somewhat keep functioning in a safe manner, but they create jobs that are able to pump money into an economy that’s looking for ways to survive. The time has never been better for an investment on infrastructure.

Take the time period of the Great Depression as an example. As a result of infrastructure investments during that era, our country gained a transportation system that became vital to the economy as a result. After the Great Recession in 2008, the government pushed to create more jobs, with clean and renewable energy at a forefront.

In an article for Cal Matters, Brett Hauser, an advanced clean mobility startup executive, touched on how our nation dealt with trouble in the late 2000s and the fact that the massive funding now will set us up for a more cost-effective, environmentally friendly future.

“We invested in renewable energy, clean transportation, grid modernization, energy storage, job training and manufacturing that catalyzed new industries,” Hauser said. “This national emergency underscores how supporting clean energy and transportation are down payments with a return on investment for the future.”

In today’s regard, Congress has passed three stimulus packages, including one that put $1,200 in the pockets of many taxpayers across the nation. The most recent relief package came in at $484 billion, with funds going towards small businesses, hospitals, and testing. With the fifth bill on the horizon, some government leaders are pushing it to be infrastructure-focused, and rightfully so. If the government will be spending trillions upon trillions of dollars, it might be best to at least have something to show for it later down the line with a much improved and sustainable infrastructure system.

There’s been much criticism on the government’s stance on investments in infrastructure in the past (or lack thereof ). Now, with possible funding from a fifth stimulus bill, it’s a no brainer to put efforts towards public works projects to create jobs and take care of problems that have been put aside for years. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, Infrastructure Report Card last checked in with the United States at a D+ overall rating back in 2017. Of the 16 categories, 12 of them came in with a grade of D or worse, while only one category, rails, ranked higher than a C. As robust as the nation is, infrastructure is the United States’ Achilles heel.

States’ Achilles heel. If there’s one area of infrastructure that’s beneficial to today’s situation, it’s the ability to test wastewater. It’s no secret that there’s a lack of testing right now for the coronavirus. However, while health care professionals diligently work to find a vaccine, testing wastewater has helped us figure out what communities are at risk in the mean time. A vaccine likely won’t be coming for at least 12 months, and we must utilize and improve upon the resources we have.

In an article by Nature, Kyle Bibby, an environmental engineer at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana shared how the ability to test wastewater is crucial in this period of uncertainty.

“Earlier identification of the virus’s arrival in a community might limit the health and economic damage caused by COVID-19, especially if it comes back next year,” Bibby said.

Aside from testing, there’s also the obvious: we need clean water to sanitize. This isn’t possible without our wastewater treatment plants, which in some areas of the country are more problematic than others. Just imagine how the pandemic is going for citizens of Flint and their ailing water system.

Investing in infrastructure now will set us up for a more resilient future and its economical effects make it an obvious choice on where our focus should be. Although money will not completely solve everything, putting efforts toward infrastructure projects would surely soften the blow and give our country something to show for the massive amounts of money we are dipping in to. And if history repeats itself (and it often does), infrastructure-focused decisions will pay off immensely in the long run.

Brian Alvarado is the Editor for American Infrastructure Magazine. He may be reached at brian@builder.media.

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