Biden’s infrastructure plans are picking up speed. But inequality concerns remain.

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The first large chunk of funds from the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure package will be distributed to states in need of repairs and upgrades to water infrastructure, President Joe Biden’s administration announced on Thursday.

The new bill calls for $ 50 billion to invest in water infrastructure over five years, and more than $ 7 billion of that will be distributed to states and tribes for use in repairs in 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a press release .

EPA Administrator Michael Regan told NBC News the total amount was the “largest single investment in water infrastructure” in the history of the federal government.

But, as I wrote in September, the success of Biden’s infrastructure plans will be measured by their ability to eradicate decades of racial infrastructure inequalities – not by the level of investment. And the decision to invest in inequality-damaged communities is largely not left to the Biden government. The money is distributed to states whose leaders decide where the money goes.

East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) workers stack water pipes prior to installation April 22nd in Walnut Creek, California. President Joe Biden unveiled his $ 2 trillion infrastructure and jobs package that will overhaul the country’s water systems, including replacing all lead pipes.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

In a letter to governors on Thursday, Regan urged states to “maximize the potential to remove obstacles and prioritize the distribution of grant funds to disadvantaged communities.”

“A top priority for EPA is to ensure that communities that have had a history of difficult access to … funds have a priority,” he wrote.

The letter signals the Biden government’s understanding that the passage of the bill was not a finale, but a beginning of efforts by the government to improve the lives of Americans with most needs. The potential of the infrastructure package to smooth out historical disparities is extremely high, but the likelihood of this remains open.

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