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Arizona leaders join others at White House for federal funds forum

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Local, tribal and union leaders from Arizona were at the White House on Friday to hear administration officials highlight the billions in recent federal funding reaching states for everything from roads to water to the top. debit.

A dozen Arizona officials joined leaders from Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado for the half-day “Communities in Action” event, where administration officials applauded the “investments historic” – and the participants applauded in return.

“We are building up all the help that the Biden-Harris administration has successfully pushed to have transformative change in our community and to target societal issues that are deep and difficult to solve on our own, the mayor of Tucson said. Regina Romero, one of those people. at the event.

Senior administration officials opened the event by highlighting elements of the Cut Inflation Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the US Bailout Act that work together. nearly $4 trillion.

“Thanks to the leadership of President Biden, we have made historic investments over the past year and a half,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, one of the speakers. “We are taking transformative action to…build a better future for the next generation.”

Arizona is set to get $1.9 billion in 2022 for infrastructure projects under the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, according to the White House. Most of it, $1.3 billion, will go to transportation, with the rest going to clean water projects, expanding internet access, cleanup, and more.

Romero said the federal funding will allow his city to do the “transformational work” it otherwise could not afford.

“We created a housing first program, and with ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, we buy hotels so we can house people in low-barrier shelters,” she said. declared. “These investments are going to be long-term.”

ARPA has allocated about $4.2 billion to Arizona to help mitigate economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Treasury Department data.

Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis said his tribe was able to use ARPA funding to help distribute much-needed COVID-19 vaccines.

“Here in Arizona, the tribes have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” Lewis said. “So being able to get our vaccine to our community members, some of our elders who are far away, maybe on dirt roads, we were able to use those resources to get vaccines when they were available. »

Lewis said that in addition to funding, he was grateful the White House included tribal nations in discussions about the various programs.

“When the tribes are able to be at the table and actually have the resources, we can bring real cutting edge projects,” Lewis said.

In addition to Lewis and Romero, the event included representatives from the Valley of the Sun United Way, Latinos United for Change in Arizona, and several unions, including the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers, among others.

Although she was impressed by the event, Arizona Education Association president Marisol Garcia said she plans to lobby the administration for student loan forgiveness and program investment. techniques.

“Current technical education programs are severely underfunded, but are truly a pipeline to fundamentally change children’s lives,” Garcia said. “But if there was a national conversation about how they’re all tied together…it could all come together.”

Haaland pointed to the $4 billion drought relief fund included in the Inflation Reduction Act for Colorado River Basin states, funding that Romero singled out as the most important program mentioned during the talk. the event.

“We’re in the 22nd year of a drought in the southwest, and it’s impacting our water resources,” Romero said. “Cities, to thrive and succeed, need water.”

The decades-long drought, which scientists have determined to be the most severe in 1,200 years, has increased the risk of wildfires and led to historically low water levels on the Colorado River which, in turn, threaten the decline in the power of hydroelectric dams.

Romero said that for Tucson residents, the federal money will improve their own finances as well as the community.

“We in Tucson are already seeing that money put into action and put into our infrastructure or into people’s pockets,” she said.