Opening remarks, as prepared, of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Ranking Member Daniel Webster (R-FL) from today’s hearing entitled, “Investing in America: Reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration”:
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):
Thank you to Chair Titus and to today’s witnesses.
I also want to welcome Mr. Hawkins, President of the Missouri Farm Bureau. His knowledge and work in Missouri will help us better understand how we can better position EDA to support farming businesses and economies.
EDA was created in a time when a lack of traditional infrastructure – like water, sewerage, or roads — prevented many distressed communities from attracting businesses and jobs. Unfortunately, many areas still have these challenges. And to make matters worse, many rural communities now have the added challenge of a lack of broadband connectivity.
While EDA can and has funded certain broadband projects, updating EDA’s authorities to remove hurdles to more viable projects is critical.
Last Congress, I introduced H.R. 6491, the E-BRIDGE Act, to do just that so that more broadband projects could be considered by EDA. I look forward to working with Members of the Committee and stakeholders as we prepare to reintroduce this legislation.
Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Ranking Member Daniel Webster (R-FL):
Thank you, Chair Titus. I wanted to thank our witnesses for joining us today for this important hearing.
As you know, EDA has received a significant amount of supplemental funding in recent years to help communities recover from disasters. Over the last year alone, EDA received $1.5 billion from the bipartisan CARES Act and another $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan.
These amounts are significantly above the level that EDA receives in base funding, so it is important that we ensure EDA is positioned to properly manage these taxpayer dollars in the most effective way.
Ultimately, in many rural communities across the Nation, access to broadband internet remains a major hurdle to retaining and attracting businesses and jobs. In cities with high-speed broadband options, many take broadband for granted. However, in many parts of my district, and in places all over the country, meaningful access is just not available. This lack of broadband in many rural areas is a serious impediment to many facets of American life, including economic development.
Just about every business these days needs access to broadband internet. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but agricultural businesses today rely heavily on broadband for things like operations, maintenance, weather forecasting, and sales. Technology has created a huge opportunity for farming to be more efficient, and supporting growth in our agricultural communities ensures continued food security for our Nation.
We also know broadband impacts the ability of distressed communities to attract jobs and businesses across a host of other industries, including the healthcare and energy sectors.
While EDA can and does fund some broadband projects, we must ensure any unnecessary hurdles are addressed so we can help more Americans get connected.
Lastly, I want to make sure that efforts to achieve this goal do not harm existing rural broadband providers which are often small businesses themselves that have spent capital and time trying to reach these communities – often in creative ways.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on these and other issues.
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