WASHINGTON (AP) — Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced Friday $1 billion in federal grants for manufacturing, clean energy, agriculture, biotechnology and other sectors that will go to 21 regional partnerships.
The winners were chosen from 529 initial applicants vying for grants as part of last year’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The Biden administration has repeatedly presented a vision of the economy that is more self-sufficient and driven by high-tech manufacturing and the development of renewable energy.
“The beauty of all of this is that we’re not going to let you get left behind as we move to a more digital economy, to a more technical economy, to a green economy,” Raimondo told The Associated Press. “People want to work where they live. People want to know there is a place for them in a changing economy.
Unlike much of the pandemic aid that was intended to meet immediate needs, the $1 billion in grants is part of a longer-term effort to revitalize parts of the country that have needed an economic jolt. for existing industries and capital for new ventures. The mission is personal for Raimondo, whose father lost his job at a watch factory in Rhode Island. She said the grants are the largest ever given to local economic development by the Department of Commerce.
The grants include $65.1 million in California to improve agricultural production and $25 million for a robotics cluster in Nebraska. Georgia gets $65 million for artificial intelligence. There is $63.7 million for lithium battery development in New York. West Virginia coal counties would receive $62.8 million to help transition to solar power and find new uses for abandoned mines.
Raimondo said the winners were chosen based on merit rather than politics. She estimated that the investments, which will be provided over five years in the form of repayments, will result in at least 100,000 jobs.
Strongly Republican states such as Oklahoma and South Dakota have received funding, and money is also funneling ahead of November’s midterm elections to political battlegrounds that could decide congressional control. There’s $44 million for regenerative medicine in New Hampshire, where Democrat Maggie Hassan is defending her US Senate seat. Pennsylvania, which has an open Senate seat, is set to receive $62.7 million for robotics and artificial intelligence.
The massive amount of coronavirus aid early in President Joe Biden’s term helped accelerate job growth as the United States recovered from the pandemic. But the hiring has been accompanied by a surge in inflation that hit a 40-year high this summer, crushing consumer confidence and putting the administration on the defensive over how its policies are helping the economy.
Even though much of the coronavirus money has been disbursed, the administration has said it still needs more money to contain the disease and its variations. Biden unsuccessfully sought $22.5 billion from Congress to deal with and prevent outbreaks, a figure that lawmakers reduced to $10 billion during negotiations. But additional funding was never passed by Congress despite confirmed cases now averaging about 90,000 a day.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tried to play down the funding shortfall after the Food and Drug Administration approved modified vaccine booster shots on Wednesday. Jean-Pierre said booster shots would be available after the Labor Day holiday as the administration worked with local partners.
Still, the economic development grants indicate the relief program could have a multi-decade impact that goes beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Orleans area will receive $50 million to use hydrogen produced by wind power that does not cause carbon emissions, a significant change in Louisiana, a state that has long relied on fossil fuels.
“With clean hydrogen, we can remain an energy state – but become an energy state of the future that has less impact on the environment,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc. , a non-profit economic development organization. “When money and morality come together, you get things done.”
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