In This Issue
On Wednesday, November 3, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Casillo testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works during an oversight hearing to examine programs at the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and review programs for reauthorization.
In her testimony, Assistant Secretary Castillo made an important case for reauthorization of EDA. It has been 17 years since EDA was last reauthorized and, in that time, new industries have emerged while other sectors have declined, regions have encountered and responded to devastating natural disasters, and all communities have suffered the impacts of a global pandemic. In addition, during this period, EDA has grown exponentially in size and budget – especially over the past four years in response to disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
These external events, combined with EDA’s growth and proven impact, create a critical moment to reauthorize the bureau, allowing EDA to better serve the communities and regions of today.
“We need to modernize our tools to provide the services that communities across the nation need to build contemporary, resilient economies. We need to update how we define distress so that our funding is more equitably distributed.
“To me, reauthorization is more than a technical process – it is essential for EDA to fulfill its historic mission. Reauthorization will allow EDA to help our nation build back better by giving us the ability to implement programs in a way that further improves conditions in highly distressed communities and supports the following priorities: Equity, U.S. Competitiveness, Modern Infrastructure, and Resiliency,” said Assistant Secretary Castillo.
During the hearing, Assistant Secretary Castillo committed to working closely with Congress to get EDA reauthorized as soon as possible.
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In 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by back-to-back storms that resulted in Category 5-level destruction. More than 3,000 people lost their lives in Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the entire population was left without power. Total economic losses were estimated at $20 million. This November, Assistant Secretary Alejandra Castillo visited Puerto Rico to see firsthand how EDA and other federal investments are helping the territory recover and build back stronger by ensuring economic, pandemic, and disaster recovery. It also highlighted how the Biden Administration is delivering on its commitment to address inequities and support communities to drive local economic growth and spur job creation.
As a part of its mission, EDA has a long history of successfully supporting natural disaster recovery and resiliency efforts. Since the devastation of 2017, EDA has awarded 34 grants to Puerto Rico, totaling more than $111 million through supplemental disaster funding. These investments are expected to create or retain more than 43,000 jobs and attract close to $283 million in private investment.
Under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF), EDA also leads the Economic Recovery Support Function (ERSF) on behalf of the Department of Commerce. In this capacity, EDA provides leadership, coordination and oversight for all federal agencies that share a role in the provision of grants, loans, training and other forms of economic recovery assistance in disaster-impacted communities.
During the Puerto Rico visit, Assistant Secretary Castillo got a firsthand look at the newly established Marine Business, Research, and Innovation Center at the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. This 45,000-square foot building, made possible through an EDA grant, will be at the forefront of the ‘Blue Economy,’ helping to bridge the gap in maritime, oceanographic and marine science business innovation.
She also visited Conservacion Conciencia, a non-profit funded by an EDA grant that is working to spur the blue economy in Puerto Rico through its collaboration with local fishermen to remove ocean debris, digitize their fishing practice, and increase sustainable development. There, she also toured a conch lab and viewed a sea vegetable lab, all of which aim to stimulate the blue economy and address food insecurity issues.
Additionally, Assistant Secretary Castillo met with stakeholders from Puerto Rico’s philanthropic, non-profit, business, and education community at the Centro Unido de Detallista (United Retailer Association), an EDA grantee. They discussed areas of opportunity for collaboration with EDA to help advance both Puerto Rico’s economic development and the blue economy.
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Southern Nevada’s economic development was the forefront of a roundtable discussion with Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo and United States Senator Catherine Cortez Masto this month. More than a dozen Nevada businesses, community, and governmental leaders joined the event on Wednesday, November 10th.
Held at the Historic Westside School in West Las Vegas, the roundtable discussion served to highlight the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) recent American Rescue Plan investments in Nevada and a $6.9 million investment made to the College of Southern Nevada for construction of a 10,000 square-foot facility to house its Westside Workforce Education and Training Center.
The Westside Workforce Education and Training Center, to be located adjacent to the Historic Westside School, will support education and instruction for underserved students by helping them obtain both a GED and specific vocational training leading to a good-paying job in the healthcare, construction, and IT sectors.
“EDA has always supported our nation’s underserved communities, but today we are doubling down to ensure communities of color, rural communities, and others receive the support they need to build back better,” said Assistant Secretary Castillo. “Equity is our top investment priority.”
In recent years, EDA has invested tens of millions of dollars in the state of Nevada to help communities build their capacity for economic development. In addition to EDA’s grant to the College of Southern Nevada, other recent EDA investments in Nevada include $1.7 million to the city of Las Vegas to expand wireless connectivity to economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Westside area, $13.5 million American Rescue Plan Statewide Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation award to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by helping strengthen the travel and outdoor industries of Nevada, and $1 million to support statewide planning efforts.
“I was glad to join Assistant Secretary Castillo to highlight what we’ve been doing to help support economic development in the historic Westside of Las Vegas and across Nevada,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “From the American Rescue Plan to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, I’ve been working to get funds into our communities to deliver broadband to students, prepare workers for jobs in in-demand industries, and promote Nevada’s travel and tourism industry. The Economic Development Administration projects highlighted today are great examples of what happens when we work together to invest in our communities, and I’m grateful for the administration’s continued support in delivering pandemic relief funds to those that will benefit most.”
Prior to the roundtable, Assistant Secretary Castillo toured the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas to learn about its work training Nevadans for good-paying jobs in the hospitality sector.
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