The Biden administration has kicked off an effort to promote the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act's impact in rural areas.
The plan, which officials announced on April 11, includes visits over the next several weeks by Cabinet secretaries and other senior officials to more than 30 sites to highlight the act’s benefits in rural areas.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters in a briefing that the tour will “basically send a very strong message to rural Americans that they’re not being left out of this historic bill.”
Vilsack is one of several Cabinet officials slated to take part in the tour, but his appearances will be delayed because he is quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19.
Mitch Landrieu, the White House infrastructure implementation coordinator, said at the briefing that the IIJA has $14.6 billion in “rural-specific programs.”
He also said rural areas could get shares of the “tens of billions” the law provides for the Dept. of Transportation's DOT’s highway, transit and bridge programs.
Other IIJA categories available to rural jurisdictions include drinking water, wastewater treatment, electricity and broadband.
But officials only cited one new, relatively modest, example of funding. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the administration would contribute $375 million over five years to a new $1-billion, public-private conservation initiative called the America the Beautiful Challenge.
Haaland said it will be administered by the nonprofit National Fish and Wildlife Federation and "will leverage investments from several federal agencies with private resources, all to support voluntary, locally led conservation efforts across the country."
She added that the initial request for proposals will go out in early May and the first round of grants is to be awarded in November.
The administration also released a "rural playbook" listing various types of funding in the IIJA for rural communities, including the "what, when, where and how to apply," according to a White House statement.
In all, the White House said, more than $100 billion in IIJA funds have been "announced and allocated" to the states since the IIJA was enacted on Nov. 15. Landrieu has said that the legislation's total funding is $1.2 trillion.
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