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What’s in the new infrastructure bill for older adults and families?

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The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law in early November, 2021. The final bill includes investments in broadband access, transportation, and energy assistance that will benefit older adults, caregivers [2], and their communities. The law will transition the Emergency Broadband Benefit to a permanent Affordable Connectivity Program to help low-income individuals access the internet. Older adults and their families will benefit from several provisions in the new law. Highlights include:

Broadband Access

  • The Emergency Broadband Benefit, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that has helped families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic, will transition to a permanent Affordable Connectivity Program. The subsidy in the permanent program will decrease to $30/month (previously $50/month) and income eligibility increase to 200% of poverty. People can still apply for the benefit online, as the existing program will end when the fund runs out of money, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner. 
  • The bipartisan Digital Equity Act, endorsed by NCOA, will receive an investment to support state and local efforts to promote broadband access.
  • Funding will be provided for broadband deployment in underserved areas, including rural and tribal communities.

Transportation

  • The law includes $2 billion for an enhanced mobility program for seniors and persons with disabilities, as well as $250 million per year for formula grants.
  • It also expands support for the Complete Streets/Safe Streets program. 

Energy Assistance

  • The law features $500 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded program that helps in managing costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization, and energy-related minor home repairs. The Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) program helps consumers stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer through programs that reduce the risk of health and safety problems that arise from unsafe heating and cooling practices.
  • It also includes $3.5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides repairs and upgrades to promote energy efficiency for low-income households
Reference: https://www.ncoa.org/article/emergency-broadband-benefit-made-permanent-in-final-infrastructure-bill [3]

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