Biden Kicks Off a Summer Effort to Sell His Economic Record With ‘an Unprecedented Investment in Broadband’

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With a series of announcements and a campaign-style swing that is set to run past the 4th of July, President Biden is launching a new effort to sell his economic record to a country that remains wary.

The first prong came Monday morning with the unveiling of new details about how $40 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be spent in the years ahead to connect more Americans to high-speed internet. The funds will flow into a Commerce Department program with checks set to begin flowing to states early next year.

The money represents “an unprecedented investment in broadband that is finally going to close the digital divide,” promises White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients.

Monday’s news also kicks off what will be a three-week effort with top Biden officials fanning out to over 20 states to sell his economic record, make more announcements, and try to convince Americans that Biden’s two and a half years in office have concretely improved their lives.

The president will headline multiple events himself with the centerpiece being a stop in Illinois Wednesday where he is set to deliver an address to his economic vision — and also adopt the term ‘Bidenomics’.

“I don’t know what the hell that is,” Biden joked of the Bidenomics label in a recent speech. “But it’s working.”

President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will kick things off Monday with the formal announcement of the broadband funding during an event at the White House.

A challenge on the economy

The efforts come as Biden faces low approval ratings with economic numbers that are even lower in spite of positive economic headlines.

The results have been evident in poll after poll with a Yahoo News/YouGov survey in recent days finding a 40% approval rating overall and a 36% rating on how he is handling the economy.

President Joe Biden speaks about reproductive rights during an event in Washington, Friday, June 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden speaks about reproductive rights at an event in Washington on Friday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The Democratic effort also comes as Republicans are in the midst of their own messaging campaign on the economy and have scoffed at the administration’s efforts to change Americans’ minds on the state of the economy. The GOP message is focused heavily on inflation, which has declined but remains a huge drag on Biden’s effort to secure a second term.

The president’s travels this week will also take him to Maryland and New York, where he will be participating in official events as well as fundraising appearances to fill the coffers of his 2024 campaign.

A focus on broadband

The centering of the initial announcement on broadband continues the Biden administration’s focus on what it estimates are 8.5 million locations across America that still aren’t able to connect to high-speed internet.

Biden has set a goal of connecting every American by 2030 and has put aside over $90 billion towards the effort. Of that total, $25 billion came from early 2021’s American Rescue Plan, with money headed to things like capital projects and providing emergency connectivity. The remainder — $65 billion — came from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed into law later that year.

White House aides have repeatedly compared their broadband efforts to the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. That bill was signed by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the New Deal and helped bring electricity to rural areas of the United States.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 3: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during an event on high-speed internet access in the South Court Auditorium at the White House complex on June 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. Harris announced that the Biden administration is making $1 billion available in grants to improve high-speed internet access in tribal lands. The $1 billion in grant funding was originally included in the coronavirus relief package.
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a White House event on high-speed internet access on June 3, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The $40 billion in funding announced Monday will flow into the Commerce Department’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. The department will then distribute the funds to states who propose projects to increase accessibility. A senior administration official says the government’s first priority is to connect unserved areas followed by areas that are currently underserved with subpar speeds.

States can begin applying for the funds this month. Applications are then due by the end of the year with the first wave of money set to be distributed in early 2024. Each state is set to receive at least $100 million with higher awards likely for the states with the most unserved locations.

Another important prong of the administration’s broadband strategy is the $14.2 billion that has already been rolled out for a program that gives low-income Americans a $30-a-month discount on their internet bill. The White House says 19 million households across the country are currently taking advantage of that program.

‘Rebuilding the backbone of America’

Also announced Monday morning is nearly $1.7 billion in new funding for low- to no-emission city buses that the Department of Transportation estimates will replace over 1,700 buses around the country in coming years.

“You’ll see more announcements and ribbon cuttings in cities and towns across the country,” Zients said of the coming tour, which the White House has dubbed the second leg of March’s Investing in America tour.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg holds a news conference about summer air travel at the department's headquarters on May 23, 2023 in Washington, DC. Airlines and regulators are preparing for the number of American travelers to eclipse or surpass the pre-pandemic high from 2019 and working to avoid a situation like last year's air travel meltdowns. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks about summer air travel at the department’s headquarters in May. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The White House has already hinted at some of the announcements to come. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is set to be in Washington state in the coming days to announce new infrastructure funding around roads and bridges. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm is also set to highlight new administration efforts around clean energy and tour the southeastern US in an electric vehicle.

Zients made sure the overall message of the tour — and likely Biden’s re-election campaign as well — was clear in a call with reporters to announce the new funding. He says the Biden administration is doing nothing less than “rebuilding the backbone of America” with a vision that represents a “sea change” from the GOP agenda.

Source : Yahoo