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White House urges cities to partner to snag infrastructure money

Helping small local governments win a piece of the new infrastructure money has become a theme of federal officials, which White House Advisor Mitch Landrieu echoed Tuesday at the National League of Cities annual Congressional Cities Conference.

“We need to find a way to work together to make sure small towns and communities have technical assistance so they know how to come to the dance,” he said.

The former New Orleans mayor, who is President Biden’s point person on the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, said 90% of the IIJA money will be spent by cities and states, and the feds job now is simply “to try to get the money out to you.”

White House Senior Advisor Mitch Landrieu, responsible for implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, told local officials they should partner with other cities and their states to win IIJA grant money.

Partnering with their states and other local governments is cities’ best option for ensuring they see some of the money, Landrieu said.

“Communication, collaboration and coordination: working regionally is going to get you a better result than working by yourself,” he said.

Roughly half of the IIJA money will be allocated as formula funding directly to the states, he said.

“You all need to muscle up, go see your governors and see your state representatives, and talk to them about why, when they’re making decisions about formula money, they need to get the formula money to the place where you live,” Landrieu said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at the conference just before heading to the White House to join President Biden as he signed the $1.5 trillion FY22 budget bill.

“The Build Back Better bill, which we’re still trying to get pieces of passed, is $1.7 trillion over 10 years,” Pelosi said. “The bill the president is signing is $1.5 trillion over the next six and a half months,” she said, referring to fiscal year end. “So this is a big infusion in every way into our families and our communities.”

Like Biden, who spoke Monday at the NLC, Pelosi highlighted the American Rescue Plan Act’s $130 billion of funding that went directly to the cities.

She added that House leaders “fought to protect it from the proposed cuts that some have suggested,” referring to recent Republican efforts to claw back some of the ARPA funds to offset new COVID-19 funding.

The House Democratic agenda, including Build Back Better, will help support cities’ economic recovery, Pelosi said.

“Congress knows we can’t simply recover from this crisis, we must be building a better America,” Pelosi said, ticking off a list of priorities, including lower costs for child care and dealing with climate change, affordable housing and building a stronger workforce, that are embedded in Build Back Better.

The House last year passed Biden’s Build Back Better bill but the legislation stalled in the Senate and supporters have since shifted to breaking it up into smaller pieces.

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