Mayors join calls for Biden administration to end ban on local hires in federal infrastructure projects

Mayors join calls for Biden administration to end ban on local hires in federal infrastructure projects
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Los Angeles Mayor Eric GarcettiEric GarcettiLos Angeles mayor warns of winter COVID-19 surge, urges vaccinations Aide who traveled with Biden to Europe tests positive for COVID-19: reports The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Democrats ask what went wrong on Election Day MORE (D) and other elected officials are joining local leaders, labor unions and community organizations demanding the Biden administration overturn the ban on local hire programs in federally funded infrastructure projects. 

Jobs to Move America, a broad coalition of mayors, cities, labor unions and community organizations from 24 states, issued a letter Tuesday calling on President Biden to end a decades-old federal regulation that prevents recipients of federal grant money for infrastructure projects to include provisions requiring or promoting the hiring of local community members. 

Garcetti, along with Mayors Randall Woodfin (D) of Birmingham, Ala., and Ben Walsh (I) of Syracuse, N.Y., as well as more than 150 other local officials and organizations, said in the letter shared with The Hill that local hiring for federal infrastructure projects “can help cities and states rebuild with racial and economic equity.” 

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The coalition wrote that when the federal provision was adopted in 1986, “the rationale for prohibiting local hire incentives was that such provisions could reduce the number of bidders on projects, resulting in an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars.” 

“However, and significantly, no empirical evidence was ever cited to back up this assertion and Congress itself has never prohibited local hire,” the group added. 

Along with the letter, Jobs to Move America also shared with The Hill a report on the Department of Transportation’s Local Labor Hiring Pilot Program launched under former President Obama. 

The report found that the program, which was canceled early on in the Trump administration, “does not reduce the number of bidders, nor does it have any systematic impact on bid price.” 

Thus, the coalition argued, “From an empirical standpoint, these results indicate that local hire can be used on infrastructure projects without resulting in lower levels of competition or increased bid prices.” 

The group added in its letter that “the pandemic has made the need for sustained economic recovery more urgent than ever,” adding, “Not only does local hire address the fundamental goal of having residents participate in infrastructure investments in their own towns and cities, it can also increase opportunities for workers of color, women, veterans, returning community members, and others facing barriers to employment.”

“As we work to beat back the threat of COVID-19, the potential to fully harness the community development benefits of local hire has never been greater,” the coalition argued. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian Biden administration to release oil from strategic reserve: reports MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement along with the coalition’s letter and report, “Local hire programs are a powerful tool to bring together states, localities, community groups, and labor organizations to expand access to high-quality infrastructure jobs for underrepresented, struggling workers.” 

Schumer went on to say, “Investing in infrastructure will be key to rebuilding our local economies coming out of this pandemic, and use of local hire on those infrastructure projects will ensure even wider benefits to communities.” 

The Senate leader added that he has “worked closely with local leaders in places like Syracuse and with labor to advocate for local hire with the Biden Administration,” and that he will continue to work with other New York lawmakers “and the wide coalition of support for local hire to push for key policy changes that make local hire a priority in federal infrastructure spending.”

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Transportation for comment.