Investing in America: Federal Funding in the Mountain West
The Impact of Federal Funding on Rural Towns and Counties
Federal officials have allocated over $50 billion to the Mountain West region to support infrastructure, climate, and technology projects. These funds are part of the Biden administration’s comprehensive “Investing in America” agenda, which includes significant spending packages such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.
While this funding has the potential to make a major difference in rural towns and counties, some residents remain unaware or indifferent. Despite support for rebuilding roads and bridges, many Republicans have not been swayed from their allegiance to former President Donald Trump.
Visible Changes in Cheyenne
Cheyenne, Wyoming, with a population of approximately 65,000, is a prime example of a town experiencing the effects of federal funding. Numerous projects in the area, funded by federal dollars, have revitalized the community. Abandoned buildings have been refurbished, the airport has added a new jetway, and roads and highway interchanges have been redesigned.
The Politics of Infrastructure
Local resident Judy Englehart acknowledges the importance of infrastructure but finds it overly politicized. She believes that government funding often goes unnoticed because people are unaware of its source. Englehart states, “We probably have money here, but nobody’s putting up any signs for it because nobody wants to say, ‘Yeah, we’re using government money.'”
Support Amid Skepticism
Kenny Stroud, a long-time GOP member, recognizes the necessity of infrastructure improvements. However, he questions whether these investments are coming at the expense of other priorities. Stroud wonders, “Are we stealing from Peter to serve Paul? Is that how we’re doing this?”
Discontent and Desire for Change
Residents express dissatisfaction with Biden’s policies due to concerns about federal debt, inflation, his age, immigration, and involvement in foreign conflicts. Larry Palmer emphasizes the need for more funding to address American needs, such as homelessness, veteran support, and mental health.
Rebuilding the Party’s Brand
Democratic Challenges in Rural America
President Biden faces the challenge of strengthening support in rural America and rebuilding the Democratic Party’s brand, particularly in key swing states like Arizona and Nevada. To address this, members of his administration are visiting small towns across the region and the nation.
Climate Provisions and Tribal Support
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland highlights the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act during her visits to Colorado and Wyoming. She emphasizes the administration’s commitment to helping all individuals, regardless of political affiliation. Haaland states, “A future that serves every single person, no matter their zip code or how much money they have in the bank.”
Other Officials in Action
Various officials, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, have been visiting different states to learn about specific issues and showcase the positive impacts of federal funding.
The Need for Effective Communication
Low Awareness and Approval Ratings
Despite these efforts, a recent poll indicates that the majority of Americans are unaware of the Inflation Reduction Act, and the president’s approval rating has dipped below 40 percent. Emily Gee, senior vice president for Inclusive Growth at the Center for American Progress, emphasizes the importance of effectively communicating the tangible effects of these investments.
Visible Improvements and Popular Targets
Gee remains optimistic that as people begin to notice improvements in their lives, support for these federal investments will increase. Polls indicate that specific targets of recent spending packages, such as manufacturing and lowering prescription drug costs, are highly popular among the public.
Benefits to Public Health and Safety
Recent federal funding has led to improvements in public health and safety. For instance, Rawlins, Wyoming, faced a water crisis last year, resulting in a boil water advisory. With the help of federal grants, the city is now fixing its water system and addressing polluted, abandoned sites.
The Impact on Rural Communities
Making a Difference in Rural Areas
While some residents express concerns about political ideologies and potential debt, the influx of federal funding can have a significant impact on rural communities. Wyoming alone could receive up to $7 billion from the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, amounting to approximately $12,000 per resident.
The Future of Rural Development
Only time will tell if smaller areas have the capacity and desire to effectively utilize these funds. Additionally, the political implications of this investment remain uncertain, despite its substantial economic impact.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado, and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Read More of this Story at www.wyomingpublicmedia.org – 2023-11-18 00:00:00
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