The Biden administration is rushing to implement parts of the infrastructure bill as quickly as possible, hoping it can turn the legislation into jobs while trying to defend the White House’s leadership on the economy.
President BidenJoe BidenJudge Rejects Trump’s Request to Delay Release of Jan.6 Papers Amid Appeal On Money: Biden’s Battle with Inflation Night Defense and National Security: Russia Concerns Increase MORE has seen its approval ratings drop amid rising gas and food prices, and frustrations over product shortages. On Wednesday, inflation hit its highest annual rate in 30 years.
Infrastructure bills can generally take months or even years to actually become concrete construction work, and some parts of the current law will take significant time to implement. It’s unclear when or if the administration will win political points for the measure sent to Biden by the House on Friday.
But officials say Americans will start to see some impacts from the infrastructure bill in the coming months, particularly in regards to projects funded through existing programs.
“At DOT, we are already getting down to business and getting to work on immediate and long-term initiatives at the IDB,” Transportation Undersecretary Polly Trottenberg said Tuesday, using the acronym used by the administration for the bipartisan infrastructure agreement. .
The White House announced Tuesday, for example, that the Transportation Department plans to open competition for the first round of port infrastructure grants funded by the bill within 90 days, as part of a broader effort to alleviate the supply chain bottlenecks that slow the delivery of goods. .
“I know there are countless projects out of the box,” he said. Tom perezThomas Perez Clinton’s Top Five Vice Presidents Elections Government Social Programs: Hope Triumphs Over Evidence of Labor “Waste and Mismanagement” in Workers’ Comp MORE, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee running for governor of Maryland. “We need to make sure in the first infrastructure bill that we see tangible evidence of this bill as soon as possible. And I know that the Biden administration has been preparing that, and I know that the states are very eager to get these projects up and running because there is so much delay. “
Bill Galston, chairman of the Brookings Institution’s governance studies program and a former internal policy aide to President Clinton, said it was important that Biden not “get too focused on the benefits the bill will bring in the future and instead focus on making sure some of these benefits appear now or as close as possible. “
“I don’t think the American people are very confident right now. Showing them rather than saying them will be much more persuasive, ”Galston said.
Over the past week, the administration has made a concerted effort both to promote specific aspects of the bill and to discuss its implementation.
Biden has told the audience that the infrastructure bill will create “millions of jobs” and help ease inflationary pressures by improving supply chain links, such as financing upgrades to US ports.
“Not only will we see unprecedented job growth, we will also see lower prices and faster delivery. This work will be critical as we implement the infrastructure bill, as we continue to build the economy from the bottom up and from the middle out by passing the Build Back Better plan, ”the president said in the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday.
Implementation of the bill will be front and center when Biden calls his third cabinet meeting since taking office on Friday.
Administration officials have been laying the groundwork for implementing the bill, which Biden will sign at the White House on Monday, for several weeks. The package was approved by the Senate in August, allowing some agencies to begin planning its implementation.
“We are working hard on the planning. When the IDB was approved by the Senate, we really started planning seriously, thinking very broadly, ”Radhika Fox, deputy water administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency said this week.
At the same time, officials face a major challenge and recognize that some of the initiatives, particularly those that involve launching entirely new programs, will take time.
The infrastructure bill represents an injection of $ 550 billion in new spending, much of it over five years. Responsibilities span multiple federal agencies, which will need to work with the private sector and state and local governments.
“Unlike consumer spending or consumption, investing is a longer-term perspective. It is not something that happens overnight. Investing means we are investing money in things that will impact overtime, ”said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, senior fellow at the centrist Third Way think tank and a former Commerce Department economist under President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHillicon Valley – Justice Department Faces Uber Former Senior Officials Warn Democracy In ‘Danger’ Without Congressional Action On Election Security Democrats Begin Blitz To Sell Infrastructure MORE.
In the Department of Energy alone, the infrastructure bill funds 60 new programs and expands funding for a dozen more. Congress has set deadlines for agencies to launch specific programs or report on progress. For example, lawmakers directed the Department of Energy to launch a $ 6 billion civil nuclear credit program within 120 days after the bill was signed.
The Commerce Department will be responsible for managing the $ 45 billion allocated for broadband expansion, targeting rural and minority communities. Commerce secretary Gina raimondoGina RaimondoBiden’s Next Challenge: Sell the Infrastructure Bill 12:30 PM Report from The Hill: What Sununu’s NH Senate Decision Means for Midterm Elections Watch Live: White House Spokesperson, Secretary of Commerce informs reporters MORE He said the agency would work with state and local governments, community organizations and the private sector to put together a grant program with the goal of providing all Americans with access to affordable broadband.
“I believe that every community will see activity and action. Some communities will start to see, you know, people who work laying fiber, “Raimondo told reporters Tuesday when asked about the progress Americans would see for next year’s midterm elections. “But I also think it’s important to be realistic and you have to be honest with people, which means we want to do well. You know, it’s more important to do it right than to rush it. “
“I think people will see their state making a plan. You will see us beginning to follow that plan. But, you know, not everyone is going to have broadband a year from now, ”he added.
The Departments of Transportation and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency are preparing to increase their staff to administer new funds and programs. The Commerce Department also said it already has plans to increase its workforce.
“We have been planning this and analyzing and addressing staffing needs, so we are prepared to start work once the legislation is signed,” a senior Commerce Department official told reporters on Wednesday.
Brett Samuels contributed reporting.