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Hirono, Gillibrand, Smith, Colleagues Reintroduce Impact Aid Bill to Fund School Infrastructure Projects

Bill provides $1 billion for Impact Aid Construction Grants, follows critical school investments made in the American Rescue Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and their colleagues introduced the Impact Aid Infrastructure Act (IAIA) last week, which would provide $1 billion in supplemental funding for school infrastructure construction grants in Fiscal Year 2022 through the Impact Aid program. Similar legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.

“This legislation builds on the critical investments made through the American Rescue Plan to improve school infrastructure and ventilation by making sure that schools in Hawaii and across the country have the resources and tools they need to support students, their families, and school staff during the pandemic and beyond. Every student, regardless of where they live, deserves to learn in a safe and healthy environment, and the schools they attend should have the resources they need to meet their particular infrastructure needs,” Senator Hirono said. 

“Federally impacted school districts are in desperate need of resources to create a safe environment for students, teachers, and staff,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Impact Aid Infrastructure Act will provide critical aid to these school districts to make long overdue repairs and renovate their facilities to meet public health guidelines. I am proud to lead this legislation with Senator Hirono and I will continue working to include this critical funding in any infrastructure package so that schools on or near military communities, or on Federal and Tribal Lands, in New York have the resources needed to provide every student with a safe learning environment and quality education.”

"Even prior to the pandemic, many Impact Aid schools already had significant infrastructure needs," said Senator Smith. "These grants will help schools make improvements that promote safe and effective learning environments—no matter whether class is virtual, in person, or a hybrid of the two—during the pandemic."

In addition to Senators Hirono, Gillibrand, and Smith, the bill was cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

IAIA builds upon the American Rescue Plan by providing additional funding for K-12 schools for necessary improvements to respond to COVID-19. Specifically, the bill would provide funding for improving school infrastructure through competitive and formula grants for school districts to design, build, improve, renovate and repair school buildings and facilities. Grants would be awarded to school districts with high percentages of military-connected students or students living on Indian lands. 

With this funding, IAIA would provide school districts with flexibility to focus on their specific renovation and repair needs, which could include changes to protect the health, safety, and well-being of students, teachers, school leaders, and school personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

“The American Rescue Plan makes a bold investment to support schools safely reopening for students and educators. Now we need to help schools build back better and address longstanding inequities in our education system. As we move forward on rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, we need to make sure we aren’t leaving our schools behind and this legislation will help make sure we don’t,” said Senator Baldwin. 

“This legislation would provide schools with the necessary funding to improve buildings and facilities—critical during and beyond the pandemic. By building on the funds made possible by the American Rescue Plan, the Impact Aid Infrastructure Act would provide grants for schools to modernize ventilation systems, renovate buildings, and make updates to support teaching in-person and remotely. A safe, healthy, and clean school environment is vital for students and teachers to thrive and I’m proud to support this effort,” Senator Blumenthal said.

"Every student in New Mexico deserves to go to school in a safe learning environment. I am proud to support this legislation to provide the Impact Aid funding that public schools need to retrofit their campuses, build modern classroom facilities, and replace unsafe air ventilation and filtration systems,” Senator Heinrich said.

The National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) estimates Hawaii would receive at least $17.8 million through the bill. 

“During these difficult fiscal times in particular, our public schools are tremendously appreciative of the Congressional delegation's unwavering commitment to honor the federal kuleana (responsibility) to help meet the costs associated with federally connected students,” said Brian Hallett, Assistant Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer for the Hawaii Department of Education. “For decades this program has played a critical role in supporting a quality educational experience for all public school students.”

“School districts that receive funding under the Impact Aid construction program educate some of our nation’s most vulnerable children,” said Hilary Goldmann, Executive Director of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools. “The need to make emergency repairs and modernize buildings in these districts is well-documented, and the stakes are higher than ever given the COVID-19 pandemic. The Impact Aid Infrastructure Act will assist federally impacted school districts in both addressing health and safety concerns and making needed updates to support remote, hybrid, and in-person teaching and learning, giving students the opportunity to reach their full potential in these uncertain times.”

Senator Hirono serves as a Senate Impact Aid Coalition co-chair, and has advocated for boosting Impact Aid funding and other federal funding to support school infrastructure projects. Last March, she signed a letter requesting strong and continued funding for the program in Fiscal Year 2021, and also joined her colleagues to call for robust funding for Impact Aid in emergency relief legislation in April and May. Earlier this year, she cosponsored S. 96, the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which would provide $130 billion for school infrastructure.

Impact Aid received $1.5 billion for Fiscal Year 2021, including $17.4 million for Construction Grants. Every year Hawaii receives around $40 million through the program.