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January 26, 2021 4:00 PM, EST

Climate Change, COVID-19 Aid Priorities for Biden Administration, Gina Raimondo Says

RaimondoRaimondo speaks after being nominated for Commerce Secretary. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

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An emphasis on climate change will help guide the Biden administration’s infrastructure policy agenda, which aims to provide economic relief to states and industry stakeholders, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo told the Senate Commerce Committee at her confirmation hearing.

Raimondo (D), President Joe Biden’s choice for commerce secretary, suggested the Commerce Department already has in place myriad programs, as well as qualified staff to assist with tackling climate change via infrastructure resilience.

A pillar of Biden’s infrastructure plan would be to facilitate the adoption of severe-weather-resilient programs across the construction sector, primarily in areas vulnerable to hurricanes and floods. The aim is to assist government agencies and private sector stakeholders with addressing concerns linked to climate change.

“We need to recognize that tackling climate change goes hand-in-hand with creating good-paying jobs. As governor, I expanded clean energy jobs, oversaw construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm and put Rhode Island on a path to 100% renewable power,” the governor said Jan. 26. The infrastructure policy proposal, estimated to cost $2 trillion, would be unveiled as early as February, according to the White House.

“Like President Biden, I know the climate crisis poses an existential threat to our economic security, and we must meet this challenge by creating millions of good, union jobs that power a more sustainable economy,” Raimondo continued. As governor, Raimondo approved the “RhodeWorks” infrastructure funding program, which entails truck-only tolls.

The nominee also touted Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 emergency aid package as a tool to assist residents hard-hit by the pandemic. A transportation component of the plan is a proposal for $20 billion for transit programs.

The relief package also calls for $350 billion for state and local governments, $130 billion for school reopenings, $160 billion for a nationwide vaccination program, $30 billion in rental assistance, $25 billion for child care/food assistance/emergency paid leave and $1,400 in direct payment assistance. Congress has yet to schedule consideration of this new round of COVID-19 aid.

“We need to make investments across America and ensure every family, regardless of where they live, has an accessible pathway to a good job,” Raimondo said at the hearing. “If confirmed as commerce secretary, I look forward to scaling and deploying additional resources to businesses and workers — with a focus on regions and communities that have often been left behind.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the committee’s outgoing chairman, praised Raimondo’s experience in government and in the private sector. Other senators echoed the sentiment, signaling support for her confirmation.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

Wicker

“Gov. Raimondo has strong professional qualifications, which demonstrate her intelligence and dedication to public service,” Wicker said. “As an elected official and former venture capitalist, she will bring a valuable perspective to the Department of Commerce regarding the economic challenges that face our nation as we continue our work to move out of this pandemic.”

Responding to a Commerce Committee questionnaire, Raimondo pointed to the manufacturing sector’s needs, and economic benefits from adopting new technologies across transportation networks.

“We need to ensure that American workers and manufacturers can compete fairly on the global playing field,” the nominee said. “We need to invest in innovation and technology in our manufacturing sector, leveraging the capacity at National Institute of Standards and Technology to ensure our industries succeed.”

She would succeed former Secretary Wilbur Ross if confirmed.

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