April 28, 2021
Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Dina Titus (D-NV) during today’s hearing titled, “Investing in America: Reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration.” Video of the opening statement from Chair Titus is here. More information on the hearing can be found here.
I’d like to welcome everyone to today’s hearing. Thank you to our witnesses for being with us.
We’re here to discuss the congressional reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration (EDA).
Created in 1965 by the Public Works and Economic Development Act, the EDA is the only federal agency specifically dedicated to economic development.
The EDA administers a variety of grant programs to invest in public works projects, higher education research and initiatives, planning and technical assistance, economic adjustment, and trade assistance for firms.
The agency also hosts a number of funding opportunities to invest in innovation and technology, such as the Build to Scale program and Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology (SPRINT) challenge.
These programs support distressed communities and strengthen local economies by creating and retaining jobs, mitigating hardship created by dislocation of industry, assisting economic recovery from disasters, and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.
This agency doesn’t always make the headlines, but the statistics show how impactful they can be in spurring economic growth and helping communities rebound.
Since 2012, the EDA has invested nearly $1.9 billion in 4,700 projects all across the country. The EDA estimates that these investments are expected to create or retain over 360,000 jobs and attract over $42 billion in private investment.
The EDA awards grants based on its core investment priorities. Earlier this month, the agency updated those priorities to include a focus on equity, technology-based economic growth, and environmentally-sustainable development.
I applaud the EDA for demonstrating a commitment to addressing the issues facing our country and through reauthorization I hope we can work together to create more opportunities for Americans.
For many communities, the EDA’s grant programs are often the only source of funding available for infrastructure or workforce development projects.
The EDA has operated without authorization since 2008, although Congress, recognizing the importance of its critical mission and impacts, has provided appropriations annually so that the agency can continue to carry out its work promoting innovation and competitiveness to prepare regions across the country for growth and success in the 21st century economy.
This is a big moment for the EDA. Reauthorization presents an opportunity to invest in workforce development and innovation. Together, we can make regions outside of the established tech hubs more competitive, help bring high-speed internet to millions of Americans, and create employment opportunities and infrastructure projects for communities that have been historically underserved.
The EDA also plays an important role in helping communities recover from disasters. Within the federal government’s Natural Disaster Recovery Framework, the EDA serves as the coordinating agency for the Economic Recovery Support Function on behalf of the Department of Commerce.
A critical component of disaster recovery is bringing back jobs and ensuring that disaster survivors have the resources necessary to get back on their feet after their lives have been upended.
The effects of the pandemic on employment have been staggering. A year ago, approximately 20 million Americans were out of the job – the most since the Great Depression. And while there has been significant progress in getting Americans back to work, almost 5 million people remain unemployed in the U.S.
Last month, the EDA reached the milestone of awarding $1 billion of the Economic Adjustment Assistance funding Congress appropriated in the CARES Act.
That’s a noteworthy achievement, but with the $3 billion Congress provided to the EDA in the American Rescue Plan Act, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
The American Rescue Plan appropriation included $750 million for communities that experienced employment and GDP losses in the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation industries. Considering how devastating the economic losses have been in those sectors, I’m particularly interested in EDA’s plans for administering that funding.
I believe the EDA can play a vital role in helping diversify the economies in places like Las Vegas that are dependent on travel and tourism so that we are able to better manage the next pandemic.
As we work toward advancing the first EDA reauthorization in over a decade, I hope our witnesses can share some of their experiences with EDA’s programs to better inform our dialogue about the agency’s future needs and capabilities.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on a comprehensive EDA reauthorization that will build on its successes and promote sustainable and equitable economic development in communities of all sizes.
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