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June 16, 2020

The Honorable Peter A. DeFazio
Chair, Committee on Transportation and  Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
2165 Rayburn Office Building Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Sam Graves
Ranking Member, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
2164 Rayburn Office Building 
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Support and amendments for the INVEST Act

Dear Chair DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, and Committee Members:

Thank you for your leadership and vision in crafting and considering the INVEST Act (H.R. 7095), which takes significant steps to fund a transportation system that puts people first and increases mobility choices and safety for communities who have experienced underinvestment and disenfranchisement. 

Green For All1 recognizes our transportation system as an essential network for our economy, not only moving goods and people, but also influencing the flows of opportunity or conversely, injustice and segregation. Transportation-related pollution is a racial justice problem-it’s the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.2 and a significant contributor to poor air quality and Clean Air Act non-conformity throughout the country3-and the health impacts, such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease4 are concentrated in low-income communities and communities of color5. As the INVEST Act moves through the Committee, we urge you to move forward on the bill, especially the following essential elements that improve mobility, health, and economic opportunity for all Americans.

Important provisions already in the INVEST Act:

  1. Better and more affordable public transit
    • Boosting public transit funding by 47%, including allowing the shifting of increased FY 2021 funds to operating expenses to cover additional safety needs responsive to COVID-19
    • Rewarding better service through incentivizing frequency, increasing ridership, and enhancing mobility (§§ 2201, 2202 and 2203) 
    • Funding for programs that will lower costs for low-income riders through demonstration grants to support reduced fare transit (§2503)
  1. Healthier communities and less pollution 
    • Enhancing community participation and solution-building through Community Climate Innovation Grants with $250m annually (§1304)
    • Increasing support for zero-emission buses and charging infrastructure by fivefold to $1.7 billion
  1.  Equitable access to opportunity and improved safety
    • Prioritizing funding for low-income urban communities (§2501) 
    • Improving safety and access to economic hubs for low-income rural communities (§§1307, 2502)
    • Deploying broadband infrastructure to close income and racial disparities in access to jobs and education (§1603)
    • Requiring states to develop and support plans to close gender and racial gaps in the transportation workforce (§ 1611)
    • Funding programs to provide workforce development and training, especially for underrepresented populations (§2603) 
    • Encouraging affordable housing proximity to transit (§§2701-2703)

Additional opportunities to improve and add to the INVEST Act:

1. Include the “Climate Smart Ports Act” to create jobs and reduce pollution for frontline communities.

Ports are the origin and terminus for a large portion of domestically distributed goods–96% of cargo at ports is transported throughout the country by truck or rail, outside of the local market proximate to the port6. In addition to the environmental and jobs benefits of reducing pollution at the nation’s ports, upgrading ports to embrace 21st century technologies also improves the efficiency and competitiveness of the U.S. intermodal transportation system. Incorporating the Climate Smart Ports Act into the INVEST Act would integrate a critical part of the country’s infrastructure and work together with other provisions to reduce transportation emissions. Frontline communities adjacent to ports are disproportionately low-income and people of color and are exposed to toxic pollutants from heavy equipment and vehicles that run on fossil fuels7. The Climate Smart Ports Act reduces pollution and creates jobs and economic opportunity for communities adjacent to ports by prioritizing local hiring and people who face barriers to employment, including people who were formerly incarcerated.  

2. Increase share of contracting with minority-owned businesses to provide greater investment in disadvantaged businesses.

The Invest Act’s floor for investing in disadvantaged small businesses should be significantly higher than the 10% currently specified in §1103(c)(3). The population that qualifies for this designation due to legal and institutional barriers to accumulate capital wealth and attract financing includes veterans, women, and people of color, who as individual categories constitute 5%, 50%, and 40% of the U.S. population, respectively8. The economic and health impacts of COVID-19 have been particularly hard on Black and Brown entrepreneurs. For instance, Black and Hispanic small business owners and workers in a recent survey identified that federal grants are the most helpful form of assistance during COVID-19, but only 12% of these small businesses received the full federal government assistance they requested9. Additional consideration and investment is warranted to support a full and just economic recovery. The number of active businesses dropped 22% between February and April 2020, and minority-owned businesses were hit even harder:  African-American, Latinx, Asian-American, and women-owned businesses dropped by 41, 32, 26, and 25% respectively.10

It’s time for American ingenuity to be put to the test to build a new economy that’s better than before — one where the people hit first and worst by the COVID-19 and climate crises do not benefit last and least from the solutions — and increases access to economic opportunity and resilience for all.  
Thank you for your leadership in moving this important legislation forward. We applaud the Committee’s efforts and urge you to continue to lean in to progress toward a more equitable and sustainable transportation future.

Sincerely,

Michelle Romero
National Director, Green For All

References

1. Green For All is a program of Dream Corps. We fight for a world that is green for all, not green for some. We work at the intersection of the environmental, economic, and racial justice movements to advance solutions to poverty and pollution. We uplift the voices of low-income families and people of color in the climate movement through empathy-based communications and storytelling. We advocate for strong, resilient, and healthy neighborhoods through policy work that ensures as the clean economy grows, it brings good jobs, better health, and opportunity to underserved communities. Learn more at www.thedreamcorps.org.

2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks,” available at: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks.

3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “How Mobile Source Pollution Affects Your Health,” available at: https://www.epa.gov/mobile-source-pollution/how-mobile-source-pollution-affects-your-health.

4. Goodkind, Andrew L., Tessum, Christopher W., Coggins,Jay S., Hill, Jason D., and Marshall, Julian D., “Fine-scale damage estimates of particulate matter air pollution reveal opportunities for location-specific mitigation of emissions,” PNAS April 30, 2019 116 (18) 8775-8780; first published April 8, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1816102116.

5. American Lung Association, “Disparities in the Impact of Air Pollution,” available at: https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/who-is-at-risk/disparities.

6. Timer, Adie and Kane, Joseph, “The Great Port Mismatch: U.S. Goods Trade and International Transportation,” Global Cities Initiative, A Joint Project of Brookings and JP Morgan Chase, June 2015, available at: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/brgkssrvygcifreightnetworks.pdf.

7. See e.g. Houston, D., Krudysz, M., & Winer, A. (2008). Diesel Truck Traffic in Low-Income and Minority Communities Adjacent to Ports: Environmental Justice Implications of Near-Roadway Land Use Conflicts. Transportation Research Record, 2067(1), 38–46. https://doi.org/10.3141/2067-05.

8. U.S. Census Bureau, Quick Facts 2019, available at: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219.

9. Federal Stimulus Survey Findings 2020, Prepared by Global Strategy Group for Color of Change and Unidos, available at: https://theblackresponse.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/COC-UnidosUS-Abbreviated-Deck-F05.13.20.pdf

10. Fairlie, Robert W., National Bureau of Economic Research, “The Impact of COVID-19 ON Small Business Owners: Evidence of Early-stage Losses from the April 2020 Current Population Survey,” Working Paper 27309, available at https://www.nber.org/papers/w27309.pdf

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