As the year closes out, industry leaders said roofers would do well to keep their eye on developments surrounding the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package Congress finally passed—despite political rancor—in November. Unlike past spending measures that focused on highways, bridges and more traditional infrastructure, the 2021 legislation includes billions for building—and roofers.
“It’s massive legislation and there’s a significant number of programs that are of interest to roofers,” confirmed Duane Musser, NRCA’s VP of government relations. “We’re very pleased that there was a building component that deals with residential and nonresidential construction.”
In fact, the infrastructure package contains $5 billion in new funding programs specifically aimed at contractors, according to an AGC fact sheet and information provided from NRCA. Add in airport construction funding and the total jumps to almost $30 billion.
Here’s a breakdown of the overall funding programs:
- $3.5 billion for residential weatherization programs.
- $1.8 billion in energy efficiency-related programs for commercial, residential, non-profit and government buildings.
- $500 million specifically for energy upgrades to schools.
- $25 billion for airport and air traffic control construction.
The focus on weatherization and energy efficiency is particularly good news for roofers—and manufacturers, said Daniel Quinonez, executive director for the RCMA. “Anytime there is a lot of money in energy efficiency that will be beneficial to coatings manufacturers and roofers in general,” he said.
Quinonez pointed out that coatings are particularly well-positioned for energy efficiency since they can improve roofing efficiency from 10 to 20 percent and extend the life of roofs from five to 20 years. “When you talk about energy efficiency, roof coatings are an essential element,” he said.
In addition to all the energy efficiency and weatherization funding, the legislation also contained more good news for roofers: money to train more workers and get more truck drivers on the road. Those two programs will help address ongoing labor shortages and supply chain issues, Musser said.
Specifically, the infrastructure package contains $10 million in grants to high education institutions to train building technicians and engineers on implementing modern building techniques. It provides another $10 million in grants for training programs for industry-related certifications to install energy-efficient building technologies.
On the truck driving front, the infrastructure package establishes an apprenticeship program for drivers under the age of 21 to legally operate a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce. Currently, many states allow commercial driver’s licenses to those 18 and older. But federal law prohibits drivers from moving goods across state lines until they are 21. There is also a component of the package to encourage more women drivers.
“This will help address the shortage of truckers, which is a significant component of our supply chain problems,” Musser said. “It’s moving in the right direction.
But while all of these programs promise more funding for roofing and easing supply chain issues, Musser cautioned that it’s too early to know exactly how they will play out or when. Unlike pandemic-related funding, which was immediately dispersed upon passage, he said infrastructure funding will be doled out over the next five to 10 years.
“This isn’t like COVID legislation, which injected the money immediately, so a lot of this stuff is not going to be rolled out next week, next month or even next year,” he said. “It’s going to be a multi-year process.”
Given growing concerns about inflation, that slower rollout will actually be a good thing for the economy and roofing in general, Musser said.
That slower rollout also means that Musser and other industry watchers have less information about how the programs will be timed and what roofers need to do to take advantage of the funding. Musser said each federal agency must write guidelines for the programs and rulemaking. As with other federal programs, NRCA and other industry associations will look for opportunities to provide comments and lobby for roofers.
In the meantime, industry associations are working together to discuss how they can help one another—and their members. For example, Musser said NRCA is coordinating with the Building Owner and Managers Association International to help connect its members with roofers around infrastructure-related projects. “We’re looking at a variety of ways we can work together,” he said.
For his part, Quinonez said he hopes roofers can forget about the rancorous process that yielded the infrastructure spending package and take advantage of all that it offers.
“I don’t think roofers are fully aware of all the benefits this legislation contains,” he said. “But if they can look past the politics and focus on what the provides, they’ll see that it’s good legislation. It’s what the country needs to get back on good footing. And it’s going to help their bottom line in the long run.”