SCAG hosted a “virtual fly-in” on March 17 – 18, where SCAG’s executive officers, several Regional Council members, and staff met with Representative Norma Torres (D-Pomona), member of the House Appropriations Committee and Rules Committee, and Representative Maxine Waters (D-Gardena), chair of the House Financial Services Committee. The delegation also met with key members of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) leadership, including Acting Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, Christopher Coes and USDOT Deputy Assistant Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs, Charles Small. The focus was to develop relationships with SCAG’s congressional delegation and incoming USDOT staff and to engage them on our legislative priorities for the upcoming infrastructure stimulus package and surface transportation reauthorization. Discussions have now started on a comprehensive infrastructure proposal that could make investments in broadband, housing, schools, water, and climate-related infrastructure. Simultaneously, Congress will be reauthorizing a new federal surface transportation bill. The current law, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, funds transportation programs through Sept. 30 of this year.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Torres highlighted her numerous opportunities to influence and shape a potential infrastructure bill. She invited frequent communication as a proposed package is negotiated and passed through the legislative process. She is also focused on jobs, housing, and broadband, which are some of SCAG’s top federal legislative priorities.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters reviewed the “Housing is Infrastructure Act,” which she authored and provides $100 billion for affordable housing. It was included in the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), which was last year’s effort in the House to pass an infrastructure bill and will likely be included in this year’s package. Congresswoman Waters talked at length about how the federal government is investing heavily in community development financial institutions and community banks, especially for the Paycheck Protection Program. Her interest is not just in rental housing, but in homeownership as well.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) discussed the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant Program, which is focused on highway freight projects. The Biden administration released its revised version of the notice of funding opportunity for INFRA, emphasizing climate change and environmental justice impacts. Acting Assistant Secretary Coes invited feedback on the funding opportunity. He also discussed how projects should not just be shovel-ready, but “shovel-worthy.”