US mayors, Black leaders push for passage of bipartisan infrastructure bill

US mayors, Black leaders push for passage of bipartisan infrastructure bill
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The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Black leaders on Friday jointly voiced broad support for President BidenJoe BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, putting pressure on Democrats to back the bill when it comes to the floor next week.

On a media call with leadership from the USCM, the African American Mayors Association and the National League of Cities, as well as U.S. Black Chambers president and CEO Ron Busby, National Urban League president Marc Morial said that the compromised $1.2 trillion proposal “has incredible potential upside for minority owned businesses.”

“The legislation would number one, make the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) … a permanent agency under the Department of Commerce,” Morial explained.

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The agency was created by former President Richard Nixon in 1969 and has been around since, but because it wasn’t created through an act of Congress, it’s forced to annually ask the White House for funding.

Thanks to an amendment to the legislation, MBDA would officially be codified as part of the Commerce Department.

Under the bill, MBDA would also receive $110 million in annual funding through fiscal 2025, more than double the $48 million it was appropriated for this fiscal year, which ends at the end of the month. 

Minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected by pandemic and have frequently struggled to access the aid made available through Congress’s stimulus bills.

Broadly, the historic legislation features billions of dollars to improve the nation’s lagging roads, bridges and public transit and other classic infrastructure areas, including $65 billion to retrofit the entire country with baseline broadband internet access.

It also contains $1 billion for revitalizing communities that have been divided and depressed by highways and other infrastructure initiatives. The affected communities are predominantly Black. 

Moreover, the package includes framework that will allow the federal contracts that come from the bill to be divided up into smaller pieces, making the projects more accessible to minority-owned businesses.

This coincides with the Biden administration’s pledge to increase the amount of federal contracting dollars that go to small, disadvantaged businesses from 10 percent to 15 percent.

Busby said on the call that the bill has created excitement amongst the businesses that he represents, but stressed the importance of making sure the “ins and outs” of the legislation are thoroughly communicated to Black stakeholders.

“Of the 40 percent of [Black-owned] businesses that went out of business [within the last year], the majority of them said they went out because of lack of information, they just did not know where to go and how to execute many of the great programs that were there,” Busby explained.

Many of the social programs that Biden initially proposed have been punted to Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget resolution that they will look to pass through the reconciliation process.

Progressives have been adamant that the bills need to be voted on together, threatening to block the infrastructure package if it comes up for a vote before the budget.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Buttigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Judge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November MORE (D-Calif.) on Friday set the goal of both bills being voted on next week.