WHAT GEORGIANS SAW THIS WEEK: Labor Leaders Support Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, Secretaries Becerra, Yellen, and Buttigieg Visit Georgia

August 6, 2021

This week, Secretaries Xavier Becerra, Janet Yellen, and Pete Buttigieg traveled to Georgia to highlight how President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda is bringing good-paying jobs to the Peach State, providing direct relief to Georgians who need it most, and revitalizing our economy from the impacts of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, labor leaders from the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, Amalgamated Transit Union Chapter 732, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists – Metro Atlanta Chapter released letters sent to Georgia’s Republican members of Congress urging them to put aside partisan politics and support the historic investments in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.

Throughout the week, Georgians saw coverage of how the American Rescue Plan — passed by Democrats and opposed by every single Georgia Republican — is continuing to uplift their communities and how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will provide much needed improvements and crucial job gains in our state.

Here’s what Georgians saw this week:


GPB: HHS Secretary Becerra Visit Spotlights State’s Health Care Woes

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra visited Georgia on Monday amid a battle between state officials and federal Democrats over expanding Medicaid.
  • Becerra was joined by high-profile Democratic politicians including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux, Lucy McBath and Nikema Williams.
  • During his trip, Becerra hosted roundtables with community leaders to hear firsthand the health care issues plaguing Georgians. From Atlanta to Norcross, advocates described racial disparities in medical services, told stories of poor maternal health and voiced support of expanding Medicaid to cover more people.
  • But Medicaid expansion in Georgia is unlikely, as Republican state officials and lawmakers have refused to take the option to expand insurance for poor adults under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Georgia had the third highest uninsured population prior to the pandemic. The Peach State is one of 12 states that have chosen not to expand the federal health care program.
  • The secretary noted that if a compromise with the state couldn’t be struck, both Bourdeaux and U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock have introduced pieces of legislation in Congress to create a look-alike program to bypass the state’s inaction.
  • In Norcross, Becerra met with health care leaders from the community concerned about racial disparities in services — especially while COVID-19 has devastated communities of color.
  • Becerra, on a mission to promote Biden’s health care agenda, urged that the federal agency would take steps to lessen the coverage gap in Georgia.
  • “We are looking forward to working with the people of Georgia,” he said. “Because we know there is a lot of real enthusiasm to continue to build toward better health care, that’s more affordable, for more of your folks.”


Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Backers highlight benefits for Georgia in Senate infrastructure deal

  • As members of the U.S. Senate worked to finalize a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, Georgia’s Raphael Warnock reached across the aisle to Texas’ Ted Cruz. The result was passage of an amendment that added I-14, a proposed highway that would connect military bases in Augusta and Columbus, to a list of “high-priority corridors.”
  • This amendment created an added benefit for Georgia in a bill that Warnock says is already full of spending that would improve transit, roads, bridges and ports across the state.
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen promoted the infrastructure package and other aspects of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda to a group of community leaders in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday.
  • Though the U.S. economy is rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic, Yellen said the country needs big investments to address longer-term stagnation in wages, employment and economic equality. She said it also needs to address climate change, which, if left unchecked, “will undermine every aspect of our economy, from supply chains to the financial system.”
  • “We have a chance now to repair the broken foundations of our economy,” Yellen said, “and, on top of it, to build something stronger and fairer than what came before.”
  • David Moellering is president of the Georgia Highway Contractors Association, whose members would benefit from the spending. He said Georgia has plenty of roads and bridges that need work.
  • “This could go a long way to help solve some of those needs,” Moellering said. “I think the Senate plan is about as good as we could hope for.”
  • The infrastructure bill’s overall $39 billion in new funding for public transit is the largest federal investment ever, according to the Biden administration.
  • MARTA and other local transit agencies stand to benefit. Colleen Kiernan, MARTA’s senior director of government and community affairs, said the agency would get about $32 million more annually for the “state of good repair” of its transit system.
  • But she said the bigger impact of the bill could come from changes for federal transit programs that would make it easier for some projects to qualify for funding.
  • Kiernan said Atlanta and Clayton County are in a good position to capitalize because voters in those jurisdictions have approved transit funding measures in recent years that would serve as local matching funds.
  • The White House released a fact sheet on how much all 50 states plan to gain over the next five years if the infrastructure package is approved. Among the highlights for Georgia:
    • $8.9 billion to repair and rebuild highways;
    • $1.4 billion to improve public transportation;
    • $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs;
    • $135 million to expand the electric vehicle charging network;
    • at least $100 million to build or improve broadband networks across the state;
    • 187,000 Georgians would also become eligible for a benefit that help low-income families afford internet access.

Politico: Biden dispatches Yellen to pitch big spending in battleground Georgia

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a visit to Georgia on Wednesday touted the bipartisan infrastructure package as vital to fighting “destructive forces” holding back the American labor force, as the White House sought to amplify its economic messaging in a key battleground state.
  • In her first domestic trip since taking the helm of the Treasury Department, the veteran economist and former Federal Reserve chair was deployed in a less familiar role — salesperson. 
  • She appeared alongside Democratic lawmakers as she spoke to local businesses and Latino groups in Atlanta about the importance of the $1.9 trillion aid package that President Joe Biden signed in March — particularly the monthly child tax credit — as well as the benefits of the infrastructure bill under debate in Congress this week.
  • Yellen was just the latest administration official to visit Atlanta in recent days. Xavier Becerra, who heads Health and Human Services, visited the city on Monday. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was due to arrive on Friday. 
  • The repeat visits were a sign of the White House’s focus on what may be the most competitive state in the 2022 midterm elections and one that was pivotal to Democrats taking full control of Washington this year.
  • “Georgia clearly is on the minds of the Biden administration,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said alongside Yellen at an event at Invest Atlanta, an economic development agency


Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Pete Buttigieg to visit metro Atlanta to support infrastructure bill

  • The nation’s top federal transportation official will come to metro Atlanta on Friday as U.S. senators continue to hammer out the details of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal.
  • U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will make a stop in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties to support the bill’s proposed investments in transportation safety and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • Buttigieg will hold a press conference with state and local officials at noon in front of Peachtree Corners City Hall to discuss suburban transportation needs. Among the officials will be U.S. Carolyn Bourdeaux, who has voiced support for expanding public transit and greenway systems in suburban areas.
  • Before the conference, Buttigieg will tour The Curiosity Lab, the Gwinnett city’s publicly funded innovation lab. Peachtree Corners brands itself as a “smart city” and has boasted solar-powered EV charging stations, self-driving shuttles and autonomous vehicle testing.
  • Buttigieg will tour the Buford Highway corridor at 1 p.m. in Doraville with U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath and local officials to view planned improvements to New Peachtree Road. A press conference will be held at the Doraville MARTA station after the tour.
  • The infrastructure bill is poised to award Georgia billions of dollars over the next five years to repair and build highways, improve public transportation, expand the EV charging network, build or improve broadband networks and provide benefits to help low-income families afford Internet.


Capitol Beat: Georgia labor unions going to bat for U.S. Senate infrastructure bill

  • Three Georgia-based labor unions are getting behind the nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill now being considered by the U.S. Senate.
  • In a letter late last week to Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation, executives from the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732 urged passage of the legislation to repair and replace Georgia’s aging roads and bridges, boost investment in public transit and broadband and create good-paying jobs.
  • “For too long … Georgia workers and commuters have weathered poor road, bridge, and highway conditions — from metro Atlanta all the way to the Florida-Georgia line,” wrote James Williams, president of the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, and Sandra L. Williams, the union’s executive director.
  • “Thankfully, President Biden is bringing both sides of the aisle to the table to make historic investments in Georgia jobs, transportation, and connectivity. We are urging you to put aside Washington partisanship, support President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, and make critical investments in Georgia’s infrastructure.”
  • The Senate bill contains $550 billion in new spending over five years. The package is expected to provide $110 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for rail and $39 billion for public transit.
  • Another $65 billion would go to expand high-speed broadband connectivity, while $55 billion would fund water and sewer projects.

WABE: Metro Atlanta Transit Could Be Among Winners If $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Can Pass:

  • The $1.2 trillion, bi-partisan infrastructure bill introduced in the U.S. Senate Sunday night could mean more federal transit dollars for metro Atlanta.
  • MARTA chief executive Jeffrey Parker says a potential huge win for metro Atlanta is a proposed increase in the upper limit for federal transit grants known as Small Starts – from $300 million to $400 million.
  • “Many of our projects – not all, but many of them, like BRT [Bus Rapid Transit] in Clayton County; many of our arterial rapid transit bus programs on Metropolitan and Cleveland; and even potentially investments along the Campbellton Road corridor, will likely get Small Starts money,” said Parker.
  • Another item the bill proposes is a change in the way federal transit dollars are allocated. Parker says that could mean an extra $35 million annually for MARTA.
  • “In order just to maintain the system, we need to rely on this federal formula money,” said Parker.
  • One change that is so far not included in the infrastructure bill is a proposal from Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock that would give agencies like MARTA more flexibility in using federal transit money.
  • “Being able to use more of our federal formula funds for operating dollars,” Parker said. “We see huge opportunities to focus on corridors where we could increase the frequency of bus service in areas where we’re trying to improve job access. That’s really an important thing that this region needs.”
  • Parker says ridership on MARTA has recovered to 60% of pre-pandemic levels, and he says spending on infrastructure now is critical.
  • “The region has some local funds to match to seek federal dollars,” said Parker. “It is the lifeblood of a growing economy, investing in transit like we’re prepared to do.”

The Ledger-Enquirer: New interstate connecting Columbus, Macon one step closer to reality with this bill

  • A long-proposed interstate route connecting key military installations and three of Georgia’s largest cities inches closer to reality if Congress passes the new bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
  • An amendment to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act proposed by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for Interstate 14 passed the Senate Tuesday by a rare voice vote with no objections.
  • The proposed interstate would run from west Texas through the middle portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama before reaching the Georgia leg in Columbus. The route would continue through Macon before reaching its end in Augusta.
  • Warnock said the interstate would spur job growth and innovation in the state by connecting emerging technology markets and military communities from Fort Benning near Columbus to Augusta’s Fort Gordon.
  • The route would also provide more economic development opportunities to rural communities along the planned route currently cut off from the interstate highway system, he added.
  • “There’s no silver bullet that creates the kind of job growth we need in the state. It’s an important part of the puzzle, which is why I thought it was important for us to make this happen,” Warnock said during a call with reporters Wednesday. “When you think about some of the areas that this I-14 corridor will connect, these are areas that have all been forgotten and neglected. I’ve got to do everything I can to spur economic growth all across our state.”

WRDW (Augusta): Infrastructure bill would send billions to Georgia, South Carolina

  • Called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the thick bill is a first part of Biden’s infrastructure agenda, and would inject billions of new spending on roads, bridges, waterworks, broadband and other projects to virtually every corner of the nation.
  • Based on formula funding, Georgia would expect to receive $8.9 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs over five years.
  • Georgia could also compete for the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges and nearly $16 billion of national funding in the bill dedicated for major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities.
  • In Georgia, there are 374 bridges and over 2,260 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 10.8% in Georgia and on average, each driver pays $375 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair, according to the White House.
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Georgia a C-minus on its infrastructure report card.
  • Based on formula funding, Georgia would expect to receive $1.4 billion over five years under to improve public transportation options across the state.
  • The White House said Georgians who take public transportation spend an extra 74.1% of their time commuting and non-white households are 3.9 times more likely to commute via public transportation. The White House says 7% of trains and other transit vehicles in the state are past useful life.
  • The bill would fund invest $7.5 billion to build out the first-ever national network of electric vehicle chargers. Of that funding, Georgia would expect to receive $135 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network in the state.
  • Georgia would also have the opportunity to apply for the $2.5 billion in grant funding dedicated to EV charging.
  • Georgia would receive a minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state, including providing access to the at least 649,000 Georgians who currently lack it. 
  • Also, nearly 3.2 million or 31% of people in Georgia would be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, which will help low-income families afford internet access.
  • The White House says 15% of Georgia households do not have an internet subscription, and 6% of Georgians live in areas where, under the FCC’s benchmark, there is no broadband infrastructure.


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