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New Tool from Urban Institute Examines Equity of Federal Investments

Federal investment in infrastructure substantially increased over the past two years with the passage of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Executive departments will distribute hundreds of billions of dollars to states and localities to invest in enhanced transportation, water supply systems, broadband networks, housing, and more. These projects can improve the quality of life for thousands and reinvigorate decaying built structures across the country. Federal funding programs, however, may not be distributing resources fairly. In the past, public infrastructure projects have deepened racial and social inequities—such as by bulldozing communities of color to build highways or depriving families with low incomes of the quality housing they deserve. It is essential to examine how infrastructure funds are being apportioned to understand whether investments are expanding support for disinvested communities or, in contrast, reinforcing historic inequities.

To explore the distribution of infrastructure funds, the Urban Institute research team – funded by the Melville Trust as part of the Partnership for Equitable and Resilient Communities justice venture – developed a first-of-its kind, comprehensive database of projects funded in fiscal year 2022 through 66 federal grant programs contained within IIJA or from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. These multibillion dollar programs fund transportation, water, energy, broadband, housing, and community development infrastructure, and are allocated to states and localities either automatically by formulas set by Congress and federal agencies or through merit-based competitions judged by federal executive departments. Urban Institute identifies funding distributed directly to entities in nearly 3,000 counties; all 50 states; Washington, DC; and several US territories.

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