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U.S. Senate Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

August 10, 2021

On Tuesday, August 10, the U.S. Senate passed the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan” by a vote of 69-30 after several months of bipartisan negotiations between the U.S. Senate and the White House. The bill included a significant increase in spending on a broad range of projects including transportation networks, electrical grids, water systems, and many other key projects.  

Our partners at Independent Sector have compiled a list of non-profit and key civic infrastructure provisions. For the Society, there are two specific topics that we have been focusing on in the final bill:

Broadband Access:
The bill included $65 billion dollars for investing into broadband-related issues, which is critical for our work on helping to expand people’s ability to use telemedicine as a part of their care. The largest amount of funding, $42.5 billion, is focused on funding for states and territories to improve their broadband infrastructure, with a focus on underserved communities. The bill also included $2.75 billion in funding to help close the digital divide in historically underserved communities, working to directly aid low-income families, rural areas, and people of color. An additional $2 billion is included as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service for the Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program. The bill also permanently expands the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program which helps low-income families afford their monthly internet bills.

All Stations Accessibility Program:
The bill included language from the “All Stations Accessibility Program Act of 2021”, also known as the ASAP Act, which allocates $1.75 billion dollars over the next 5 years for grants to help modernize railroad stations to reach Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Senator Duckworth (D-Illinois), MS Caucus Chair Senator Casey (D-Pennsylvania), and Senator Brown (D-Ohio) advocated for an amendment to the ASAP Act which ultimately failed but would have:
  • Included funds be used to reach full accessibility rather than the ADA minimum;
  • Required those receiving grants to create a timeline to work towards reaching full accessibility.
While the Society did support the amendment (MS activists sent more than 1500 messages to U.S. Senators to support the amendment) - the amendment did not pass - but the included language will still be a strong step towards more accessible railroad networks. 

The bill is now being sent to the U.S. House of Representatives where it is expected to be passed this fall. President Biden is expected to sign the legislation as infrastructure has been a top priority. For more information and updates on policies supported by the National MS Society follow @MSativist on twitter and sign up to become a member of the MS Activist Network.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.

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