Blunt Rochester, U.S. Senator Tina Smith Introduce Plan to Make Public Facility Infrastructure Better Prepared for Public Health Emergencies

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


Rep. Blunt Rochester and Sen. Smith said their legislation promotes environmental justice by prioritizing low-income, COVID-19 impacted communities. Funded energy efficiency and resiliency retrofits could include project components designed to improve safety and indoor air quality. This is particularly important for facilities re-opening before there is a vaccine for COVID-19. 


“As we start 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 2020 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.”  


"Now, more than ever, it's critical that schools, libraries, medical facilities and other public facilities provide a safe, clean, and energy efficient indoor environment," said Sen. Smith. "This bill will create opportunity for public facilities—especially in low-income communities—to make energy efficient infrastructure improvements that not only improve preparedness and resiliency for future public health emergencies but help the environment too. It would also help spur job creation in the energy efficiency field and rapidly put people back to work. I look forward to working with Rep. Blunt Rochester in moving our legislation forward." 


 “The Alliance to Save Energy applauds Sen. Smith and Rep. Blunt-Rochester for their leadership in introducing this legislation. If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that being prepared and having the right infrastructure in place are critical to our response capabilities. We can put people back to work and come out of this crisis better prepared if we make the right investments and leverage available federal funding with private finance through public-private partnerships.  This legislation does that by using the cost savings from energy efficiency improvements to help pay for facility safety, resiliency and flexibility to quickly respond to future emergencies. Congress should pass this bill immediately to help rebuild the economy and get hundreds of thousands of energy efficiency workers back to work, said Clay Nesler, Interim President, Alliance to Save Energy.


“We want to thank Senator Smith and Representative Blunt-Rochester for the introduction of this important legislation that will help American taxpayers and all our citizens address the needed upgrades to mission-critical facilities, like hospitals, schools and community shelters, to address important resiliency needs to help people respond to pandemics, hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other weather and climate-related disasters.  This bill should be passed as soon as possible and it can help put people back to work and upgrade energy efficiency, incorporate renewable energy and increase the use of modern technology.  The key is that private funds would be used to address these improvements, while utilizing federal funds to deal with resiliency needs.  The state energy offices stand ready to implement this program," said David Terry, Executive Director of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO).


The Open Back Better Act of 2020 would provide stimulus funding to States, federal buildings and Tribes to:

  • Upgrade public buildings, making them safe to re-open via improvements such as 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.
  • Reduce emissions and lower operating costs by improving building energy efficiency.


This legislation is endorsed by: National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), Insulators Union, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO), Alliance to Save Energy, Federal Performance Contracting Coalition (FPCC), Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment (MNCEE)


You can access a summary of the bill here.



Stay Connected

Use the form below to sign up for my newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.

Office Locations