States Urged to Select Infrastructure Coordinators
Mitch Landrieu, Senior Advisor for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, reached out to state leaders at the beginning of the month encouraging them to appoint their own infrastructure coordinators to implement the $1.2 trillion law.
The three-page letter, sent to all the nation’s governors on Jan. 4, requested that they appoint a “high-level” representative to serve as the state’s own Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator. Landrieu also reportedly suggested that governors create task forces modeled after the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force created by President Joe Biden in November.
The role of these positions will help integrate aspects of the bill, including funding, alongside departments responsible for transportation, water, broadband and energy investments for projects.
“We know that needs, capacity, and challenges can vary widely by locality,” the letter from Landrieu, which was shared with CNN, reads. “We need to make sure our programs reflect these realities across your state and our country, and having a senior, single point of contact in your office will help ensure that issues get elevated appropriately and rapidly.”
In his letter, Landrieu also announced that his team, with the Office of Management and Budget, plan to release formal guidance to agencies to “help set the policy parameters for much of the discretionary and remaining formula funding in 2022 and beyond.” A guidebook for state and local governments that will include dates related to programs this year is also being prepared.
“The President has been clear in his charge to me: make sure these programs get implemented without unnecessary bureaucracy and delay to rebuild America's infrastructure -- while at the same time being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and working to achieve goals around creating good middle-class jobs, supporting disadvantaged and underserved communities, advancing climate resilience and sustainability, and investing in American manufacturers,” the letter reads.
Two states, Arkansas and New Mexico, have already taken steps to set up committees to oversee the bill’s implementation: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson established an infrastructure planning advisory committee and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has named three advisers to oversee departments.
Infrastructure Bill Senior Advisor
In November, the White House announced that President Joe Biden named former New Orleans Mayor Landrieu as senior advisor responsible for the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Earlier that week, Biden signed into law the largest federal investment in infrastructure in more than a decade.
“I am thankful to the President and honored to be tasked with coordinating the largest infrastructure investment in generations,” said Landrieu at the time.
“Our work will require strong partnerships across the government and with state and local leaders, business and labor to create good-paying jobs and rebuild America for the middle class. We will also ensure these major investments achieve the President’s goals of combating climate change and advancing equity.”
Landrieu served as the mayor of New Orleans from 2010-2018, during Hurricane Katrina recovery and the BP Oil Spill. According to the White House statement, in that time he fast-tracked over 100 projects and secured billions in federal funding for roads, schools, hospitals, parks and critical infrastructure.
Prior to his mayoral term, Landrieu served two terms as lieutenant governor, 16 years in state legislature and as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He was named “Public Official of the Year” by Governing in 2015 and “America’s top turnaround mayor” in a Politico survey.
Landrieu launched E Pluribus Unum in 2018. The initiative aims to promote justice and opportunity by breaking down barriers from race and class.
“He also knows what it’s like to lead at the state level and will be able to work with and relate to governors and other state officials,” stated the White House press release. “And he has strong relationships in the business and labor communities, which will be essential in carrying out this job.”
Other Recent Appointments
Last month, the White House announced that it had appointed two new advisors for the coordination of bipartisan infrastructure law. Katie Thomson will serve as the Director of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Implementation for the Department of Transportation, and Winnie Stachelberg was announced as Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator for the Department of the Interior.
In their new roles, Thomson and Stachelberg are expected to ensure that components of the bipartisan infrastructure bill are timely, on budget and in accordance with tasks, alongside the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force and Senior Advisor Mitch Landrieu.
According to CBS News, the Biden Administration said it planned to add more positions across agencies over the coming weeks and months, including new civil servant jobs.
At the time, Thomson worked as Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Worldwide Transportation and Sustainability at Amazon. Prior to her work at Amazon, Thomson served as general counsel for the DOT and chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration during the Obama Administration. She was also the counselor to Secretary of Transportation and was the DOT’s first senior sustainability officer.
Most recently, Stachelberg served as executive vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, with more than fifteen years playing “an integral role in developing and driving the strategic direction of a multi-issue agenda among elected officials, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders.” Prior to her role with CAP, she served as political director and the first vice president of the Human Rights Campaign for 11 years.
Infrastructure Bill Details
With the goal of rebuilding the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges, as well as funding new climate resilience and broadband initiatives, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act reportedly serves to deliver a key component in President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The White House also reports that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, alongside the Build Back Framework, will add on average 1.5 million jobs per year for the next ten years.
“Tonight, we took a monumental step forward as a nation,” President Biden said in a statement following the 228-206 vote. “The United States House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a once-in-generation bipartisan infrastructure bill that will create millions of jobs, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity and put us on a path to win the economic competition for the 21st Century.
“I’m also proud that a rule was voted on that will allow for passage of my Build Back Better Act in the House of Representatives the week of Nov. 15. The Build Back Better Act will be a once-in-a-generation investment in our people.”
As potential effects of climate change woe the world, the legislation has recognized that nearly 75% of the nation’s electricity can be accounted for in both its residential and commercial structures, such as housing, stores and offices.
To mitigate the high usage, the Build Better Plan has dedicated roughly $5 billion to various programs aimed at reducing electricity use in buildings, improving building materials and training on design, construction and maintenance for energy-efficient structures.
The bill will also fund a series of problem-solving programs, for issues varying from drafty windows in affordable housing complexes to aged air ducts and outdated building codes.
According to reports, the largest chunk of the $5 billion will be utilized for the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which aids structures owned or occupied by people with low incomes. The legislation is expected to provide a $3.5 billion infusion for the program, which will be used to fund upgrades such as insulation, windows, roofing, and heating and cooling devices.
Though seemingly minor, the upgrades are expected to result in sizable energy savings.