U.S. Senator Tina Smith, U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester Continue Fight to Prepare Public Facilities for Future Emergencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/3/21]—As the country continues to confront the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) reintroduced legislation to make public facilities both better prepared for future emergencies and more energy efficient. The Open Back Better Act would provide stimulus funding for energy efficiency and resiliency retrofit projects—such as improving safety and air quality—in schools, medical facilities, government buildings, education institutions, libraries and more. 

Sen. Smith and Rep. Rochester said their legislation promotes environmental justice by prioritizing infrastructure improvements in communities of color and low-income areas hit hardest by COVID-19. 

  “COVID-19 has exposed the urgent need to update aging infrastructure in public buildings to be better prepared for future emergencies,” said Sen. Smith. “When we make these improvements, we should promote energy efficiency and resiliency so that we’re building back better for the environment too. This bill makes deliberate investments in communities of color and low-income areas because they are disproportionately affected by pollution and have been hit hardest by COVID-19. It will also help our economy rebound by spurring job creation in the energy efficiency field. I look forward to working with Rep. Blunt Rochester to move our legislation forward.”

“As we continue to rebuild our economy from this ongoing public health pandemic, we must be intentional about how we rebuild. This pandemic has shown the inextricable link between our health, our environment, and our economy. That is why we must build back a stronger, cleaner, healthier, and safer economy—especially for communities of color and low-income communities who are overburdened by pollution, have experienced staggering rates of COVID-19 mortality, and have been hit hardest by the economic downturn,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “The Open Back Better Act of 2021 will ensure that our nation’s critical infrastructure, like hospitals and schools, is more resilient, more energy efficient, safer, and more reliable to guard against future threats, while creating good jobs and prioritizing the communities hit hardest by this pandemic.”  

“The Federal Performance Contracting Coalition (FPCC) supports this legislation that will improve our country’s critical infrastructure by using private sector expertise and funding,” said Jennifer Schafer, Executive Director of the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition. “Additional funding in this bill for the AFFECT program, in partnership with the private sector through performance contracts, will increase the value of these investments at least fivefold, allowing our military and other federal facilities to include modernization and resilience measures that reduce energy use as do traditional energy conservation measures.”

“This bill would put thousands of people to work upgrading schools, airports, hospitals and other critical public buildings that are badly in need of improvements. By tapping into the long-term energy cost savings from efficiency gains, it is a cost-effective way to create safer, more resilient facilities with sharply reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lower operating costs,” said Paula Glover, President of The Alliance to Save Energy. “And it ensures that disadvantaged communities receive a fair share of the investment. The Alliance applauds Rep. Blunt Rochester and Sen. Smith for their leadership on this effort, and we look forward to seeing this legislation signed into law.” 

 “The Open Back Better Act is a key part of building our nation’s resiliency and infrastructure, and will create many jobs while reducing harmful emissions,” said Timothy D. Unruh, PhD, NAESCO Executive Director.

“I applaud Rep. Blunt Rochester and Senator Smith for reintroducing the Open Back Better bill, which will improve the resilience, health and safety of schools and hospitals and will utilize private financing to improve the energy efficiency of these buildings,” said David Terry, Executive Director of the National Association of State Energy Officials. 

The Open Back Better Act of 2021 would provide stimulus funding to States, federal buildings and Tribes to:

·       Upgrade public buildings, making them more efficient and safe to re-open via improvements to reduce threats from COVID 19 and improve indoor air quality;

·       Create good jobs doing critical, long neglected upgrades in our schools, hospitals, and other public buildings;

·       Prioritize environmental justice through projects targeted at low-income, COVID impacted communities; and

·       Reduce emissions and lower operating costs by improving building energy efficiency.

This legislation is endorsed by the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), Insulators Union, National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO) and the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition (FPCC).