Washington D.C. July 22 12:41 P.M. EDT
Hi, everyone. Happy Thursday. Okay, we have a special guest. Happy to welcome back Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
Today, she will be telling us about a new economic development initiative that the Department is launching, thanks to the American Rescue Plan. She'll take a couple of questions. After that, as always, I'll be the bad cop.
With that, I'll turn it over to Secretary Raimondo.
Thank you, Jen. Let's see here. Thank you, Jen.
Good afternoon, everybody. So, as the President often says and as we all know, we're on the road to recovery. And today, with this announcement, we mark a real step forward in that recovery.
As Jen just said, the President signed the American Rescue Plan into law, intended to get our country back on its feet. And thanks to that law, I'm thrilled right now to be announcing the launch of a transformative $3 billion economic development initiative that will be running out of the Department of Commerce. I'm even more excited to say that, starting today, this afternoon, every community in America can begin applying for that funding.
We believe that this is the largest local economic development initiative that the Commerce Department has ever made. And it's a testament to the President's commitment to do far more than simply recover, but to build back better and make sure every community and every American is included in our comeback.
Everybody ought to benefit from this $3 billion initiative — from working mothers working to balance multiple jobs; to young adults looking for work; to factory workers or retail workers who lost their job in the pandemic — many of them mid-career and they're wondering, "What happens to me now? What happens to me next?"
These funds — this initiative has been specifically designed to make sure that we are going to be providing high-quality, real jobs for you and for your community.
What we saw during the pandemic, and what we all know, is that some people did very well. Those who were doing well did very well. But millions of Americans continue to struggle, and it's uneven. Those who continue to struggle — it's been disproportionately women, people of color, communities of color, rural communities, and Tribes.
We know 2 million American women dropped out of the labor force since the start of the pandemic, mostly because of lack of affordable childcare and paid leave. So, ensuring that these $3 billion are distributed equity is core to our investment strategy. We know that equity is good for workers, good for business, and good for the economy.
As many of you know, I'm the former governor of Rhode Island, and, as a governor, I saw what good-paying jobs mean to American families and mean to communities.
This initiative has the potential to create, we believe, 300,000 jobs in the near term, revitalize dozens of communities around America, and drive innovation in unser- — underserved communities and revitalize depressed economies.
The good news is the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Agency has been doing this for decades. They have a track record of success. In fact, I saw that, on Monday, when I was in Albany, where EDA's investment over the last 10 years have helped that city and region become a global semiconductor and bio-science hub. And, in fact, the employment growth rate there has grown by 30 percent in those industries.
This initiative that I'm announcing today will bring that type of transformative growth to communities all over the country.
So, at the end of the day, as the President has so often said, our economy can't recover until everybody in every community is included.
So I'd like to briefly describe the components of this $3 billion initiative. It begins with what we're calling the "Build Back Better Regional Challenge". This is a $1 billion challenge for up to 30 regions across the country seeking to revitalize their economies. It's designed to focus on innovation and spur projects that grow new industries and scale existing ones.
Secondly is what we're calling the "Good Jobs Challenge," which allocates a half a billion dollars towards industry-led workforce training and apprenticeship programs with a particular focus on women, people of color, and underserved communities.
Importantly, we have designed this so that funds can also be used for support services like childcare and transportation while folks are getting trained so we make sure they — they get to the finish line of the training and get a job.
For the hard — hard-hit communities hit hardest by the loss of travel and tourism, we're providing $750 million to accelerate the recovery of trarel [sic] — travel tourism and outdoor recreation. Through the economic adjustment assistance, we're offering a half a billion dollars to hundreds of communities across the country to create new jobs, spur economic development, and put Americans back to work.
Our "Indigenous Communities Commitment" sets aside $100 million to meet the needs of Indigenous communities with everything from broadband to health centers and more — deliberately designed to be flexible to meet the needs of the community.
And finally, we are making a $300 million commitment to invest in economic development in coal-affected communities. We believe that this $300 million investment in coal communities is the largest economic development that EDA has ever made in coal communities. And we know that it will enable these communities to recover, diversify their economies, and grow.
So, these grants together reflect the values and priorities of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda, and they, alongside of the Jobs Plan, will accelerate America's economic recovery and help the country continue to get back to work.
So, spread the word. It'll be — applications go live this afternoon, and we look forward to working with communities around America.
Madam Secretary, two questions. One, can you explain how people can apply for these grants?
And two, on a separate topic: The Commerce Department has a Supply Chain Advisory Committee. Can you give us an update on what you're doing about chips and other supply issues?
Yeah. Thank you. So, as I said, this afternoon, on the EDA website — the EDA website applications will be live. So we want to get this money out the door as quickly as possible. EDA has six regional offices around the country, which we will be working with. But this is — I want to clarify: This money is for states, cities, counties, nonprofits, universities — not for companies. So it's coalitions of nonprofits in communities, specifically designed to be locally led and managed.
We're doing a lot on the chip shortage. I am engaging almost daily with industry. We are working as hard as we can to get the House to pass the CHIPS Act or their version of USICA. And we're putting plans in place right now, already, on the team to invest the $52 billion. We need to incentivize the manufacturing of chips in America. And so, we are very focused on putting the pieces in place so that can happen.
With regard to the EDA grants, I understand that you're going to judge some of these by return on investment. How are you defining ROI, given that that can often exclude priorities like gender and racial equality?
So, our number one investment priority is equity. And as our team decides which — these are — this is a competitive grant process. By the way, I think that the fact of the competition will help communities to come together as a community and put their best ideas forward.
In order to qualify to get the money, you have to prove to us that equity — you'll have an equity lens. And whether it's job training that you're doing, you have to give — you know, I have to make sure that women, people of color, veterans, people who've been left out will be included in this.
So it's a lens that we're going to take across the $3 billion.
And, like, whoever does it the best?
What type of — thank you, Madam Secretary. What type of follow up will there be? You're emphasizing equity, but will you be following up to make sure that that money is distributed fairly to the communities that you're speaking of that really do need it?
Great question. So, we are deeply committed for this to be transparent. Everything is going to be online. It's going to be on our website. It's going to be a wide-open, transparent process. And we are, at the get-go, putting in place accountability measures. And this is something I am very serious about — having been a governor, being on the ground. We're going to track every penny to make sure that it's doing what it's supposed to do.
And the ROI — the ROI is jobs. We think we can create, in the short term, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and fundamentally revitalize dozens of communities around America so that, a few years from now, we'll create 300,000 jobs; 10 years from now, we will have communities that are a beehive of economic activity that, five years ago, were distressed.
Thanks, Secretary Raimondo. A few days ago, the U.S. government and governments around the world accused China of malicious cyber activities. Have you gotten any reaction from your Chinese government counterparts about these accusations?
And do you believe that the statements alone are going to be enough to change Chinese behavior if they aren't paired with punitive measures like tariffs or sanctions?
Yeah. So I have not had — to answer your first question, the answer is: No, I have not had any interaction.
The Pre- — President Biden has been very clear on this: There will be consequences. And we will use all tools at our disposable [sic] — at our disposal in order to protect Americans and American businesses.
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