‹ Back to Columns

AFS Applauds Senate Passage of Legislation to Rebuild Our Nation’s Water Systems

Stephanie Salmon

At the end of April, the U.S. Senate approved the bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 (DWWIA 2021) (S. 914), which would authorize the investment of more than $35 billion in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Specifically, it would reauthorize several key drinking water and wastewater funding programs, expand EPA assistance to help water systems build resilience to climate change and extreme weather, reauthorize and increase funding for EPA’s lead reduction projects grant program and establish a pilot program to promote low-income water and wastewater affordability, among other priorities. 

“AFS applauds Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and other members of the Committee for developing strong, bipartisan legislation to improve our nation’s water infrastructure,” said American Foundry Society CEO Doug Kurkul.  “The DWWIA 2021 provides significant investments to help communities address complex water infrastructure challenges and our U.S. metalcasters look forward to supplying critical American-made components that are used in the distribution, transmission and maintenance for our drinking and wastewater systems throughout the nation.”

S. 914 will be now be sent to the House of Representatives, where lawmakers have introduced their own significantly larger water infrastructure proposals this year. But the timing for any of those measures to go before the full House is unclear, and ultimately a final water infrastructure package could be formulated later this year when House and Senate members meet in a conference committee to negotiate a compromise between S. 914 and a House proposal.     

OSHA Sends COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rule to White House for Final Review

On April 26, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) formally sent its proposed COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for final review after weeks of delay.  

The Biden administration is advancing these emergency workplace safety rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The review is expected to take two weeks and once it is complete, OSHA will issue the rule and it will become effective immediately. The ETS will stay in effect for at least the next six months.

The emergency rules are expected to require employers to supply their workers with masks, have a written plan to avert exposure in the workplace and take other precautions. There is a possibility that there may be one standard for higher risk industries, such as healthcare workplaces and meat processing plants, and another standard for all other industries.  AFS will be hosting a webinar following the release of the new temporary standard to help ensure your metalcasting facility is in compliance.    

Biden Names Made in America Director

President Joe Biden has selected Celeste Drake, a longtime trade expert from the AFL-CIO, to serve as the first director of his commitment to advancing “Buy American” and “Make it in America” policies. Drake will be responsible for ensuring the federal procurement process rewards U.S.-based businesses, including small companies and minority entrepreneurs. Her office will be based out of the Office of Management and Budget.

AFS looks forward to supporting her efforts to ensure that the U.S. metalcasting industry benefits from federal investments, including rebuilding American infrastructure.  

Biden Signs Executive Order Requiring $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on April 27, directing federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage for their workers starting next year. The order affects hundreds of thousands of people working on federal contracts. Currently, the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts is $10.95 per hour.

By March 30, 2022, the federal agencies must implement the $15 minimum wage into new contracts. Every year after 2022, agencies must index the minimum wage in order to adjust for inflation.
Biden campaigned on a pledge to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. A push by Democrats to include the wage increase in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package was unsuccessful. The administration remains committed to the goal of a $15 minimum wage for the private sector.