Commerce Department announces first round of awards for American Rescue Plan programs

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The Commerce Department announced on Thursday the first round of funding awarded to support communities after the pandemic using money from the American Rescue Plan, a sweeping COVID-19 relief bill that President Biden signed earlier this year.

The department announced that 24 states were awarded $1 million each in grants through an Economic Development Administration (EDA) program for planning initiatives aimed at tackling states’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, creating jobs and supporting economic development. 

Other EDA programs that will distribute American Rescue Plan funding are focused on developing skills training programs, travel and tourism recovery and economic development in Indigenous communities.

In total, 59 states and territories are anticipated to receive $1 million grants through the program, with more grants expected to be awarded in the next few weeks and months.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo told The Hill that some of the initiatives being funded through this particular EDA program include coastal resiliency planning in Maine, broadband planning in Massachusetts, COVID-19 recovery planning in Arkansas and energy-efficient vehicle planning in Wisconsin.

“Every state is looking at not only what they need, but how are they going to at the end of the day create economic development planning efforts that are going to be kind of customized to their state needs,” Castillo said.

“So it’s not a one-size-fits-all, but we wanted to make sure that every state and territory had an opportunity to look at what’s been happening within their states under COVID and really look forward so that they can have that framework readily available,” she added.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, meanwhile, said in a statement that the Biden administration “is giving states and territories the unprecedented opportunity to bring all their communities together to develop comprehensive plans to build back better and stronger.” 

The news comes as the United States is seeking to bounce back economically from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been complicated by a surge in delta variant cases. Earlier this month, Labor Department data indicated that 194,000 jobs were added in September, compared to an anticipated 500,000 jobs, though the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent. 

The country has also been dealing with labor shortages, port closures and other supply chain disruptions as the holiday shopping season approaches. The White House announced last week that the Port of Los Angeles, UPS, Walmart and FedEx would be working around the clock to alleviate bottlenecks caused by the supply chain disruptions.

Tags American Rescue Plan Commerce Department Gina Raimondo Gina Raimondo Joe Biden

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