August 05, 2020

Udall, Heinrich Introduce Impact Aid Infrastructure Act to Boost School Infrastructure Projects Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Bill would provide $1 billion in funding for schools as they work to provide a safe learning environment for students, teachers, and other school personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), to introduce the Impact Aid Infrastructure Act (IAIA), which provides $1 billion in supplemental funding for school infrastructure construction grants through the Impact Aid program.

IAIA provides competitive and formula grants for school infrastructure projects, including school construction and facilities upgrades, in school districts with high percentages of children with military parents or children living on Indian lands. With these grants, school districts would have the flexibility to focus on their specific renovation and repair needs, which could include changes to help protect the health, safety, and well-being of students, teachers, school leaders, and school personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal Impact Aid is critical for New Mexico, where many school districts receive funding from the program because they serve the large number of federal military installations and Indian lands in the state. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has brought our country’s existing education inequality into plain sight,” Udall said. “Many local public schools located near military bases, national labs, national parks, and Indian reservations in New Mexico and across the country have faced unique barriers to adequately funding important facilities projects for decades.  These same school systems are now struggling to retrofit their campuses to make them safer for reopening because of budget shortfalls and decades long maintenance backlogs. This investment is long overdue but, now more than ever, we cannot turn our back on school safety.”

“By addressing the backlog of Impact Aid projects, we can help federally impacted school districts in New Mexico repair or rebuild decades-old infrastructures,” said Heinrich. “That is why I am proud to help introduce legislation that ensures these school districts have access to critical infrastructure funding so that we can improve the quality of education for all of our students.”

“The infrastructure and facilities needs in federally impacted school districts, which educate some of our nation’s most vulnerable children, are well documented – as is their disadvantage in raising funds for capital projects due to the presence of federal property,” said NAFIS Executive Director Hilary Goldmann. “The Impact Aid Construction program has been underfunded for years. Particularly as these districts reopen school buildings in the context of COVID-19, they need additional resources to ensure school facilities are safe for students and staff to learn and work. NAFIS strongly supports this legislation, which will help them do so.”