The Rebuild With Us campaign calls on Congress to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package, and on July 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Moving Forward Act (H.R.2). This is the third installment in a local leader blog series from NLC’s Federal Advocacy committee chairs that will showcase wins for cities, towns and villages as we continue to advocate for Senate action on infrastructure.
The Moving Forward Act provides $1.5 trillion in investments in our nation’s physical infrastructure – roads, bridges, broadband, and water – and also makes critical investments in our human capital infrastructure. This is an important step towards recognizing that our nation’s infrastructure systems will not build and maintain themselves. We as a nation must invest in skills development to ensure that we have a prepared and trained workforce in the sectors of infrastructure.
Even before cities, towns, and villages were on the forefront of the response to COVID-19, our nation had a significant skills mismatch and workforce shortage in the sectors of infrastructure. According to the Departments of Labor and Education, we need to increase our infrastructure workforce by 4.6 million workers by 2022. This is just to fill the jobs that are available today – to say nothing of the new jobs that will be created through a comprehensive package like the Moving Forward Act.
While it is essential that the federal government invest in our nation’s physical infrastructure and to create more jobs to support the high rates of national unemployment, we must also strongly invest in our nation’s human capital and robustly fund programs that skill and re-skill workers to meet employer demands.
Light Rail in WeHo
In West Hollywood, we have been hard at work to bring the Crenshaw Northern Extension Metro rail project to our community. This project – which will create an important north-south corridor from LAX, Inglewood, and Crenshaw communities through West Hollywood – will result in connecting five Metro Rail lines and will transform regional mobility. When completed, this line will yield one of the highest ridership rates of any light rail line in the country, connecting many of LA’s tourist attractions as well as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to previously unserved communities. While you might not think of public transportation when you think of my community, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority averages 1.2 million transit trips per day, making it the third largest transit agency in the country, and Metro is the largest employer in West Hollywood. This project will address mobility, equity, and economic development challenges in one essential project.
To make this project a reality, as chair of the Human Development Committee, I know that we can’t do this without people. To accelerate the development of this line, we will need skilled workers, and to get skilled workers, we will need to invest in the right training and resources. I am so pleased that in West Hollywood we have partnered with the WeHoWorks Career Resource Center, operated by JVS SoCal, to provide free workforce development services. But one program cannot do this alone and we need federal support to ramp-up and prioritize how we are investing in our nation’s workforce.
Skills Investment in The Moving Forward Act
The Moving Forward Act includes language that is an important first step in ensuring that workers in our communities have the skills and supports they need to fill the infrastructure jobs that will result from this legislation. Included in the bill is language that reflects the BUILDS Act (H.R. 2831/S. 1517), which is a bicameral, bipartisan piece of legislation that calls for implementation grants to train workers, support talent pipelines, and provide support services to participants to better enable their success in work-based learning programs. We know that issues such as childcare, transportation, and career counseling are vital components of a successful workforce development program.
Next Stop: U.S. Senate
As the conversation around infrastructure investment now moves to the Senate, it is important to continue to support investment in skills as part of any final package. Our nation’s public workforce system is not fully funded, and NLC, along with 500 other organizations, has previously called for at least $15B of funding to go towards the system. With increased demands on the system, it is critical that Congress reflect the language in the Moving Forward Act and invest in adequate funding for skills training to support the jobs created in our transportation, water, and broadband systems.
As Congress completes two weeks back in their home states and districts over the 4th of July work period, now is the time to continue to uplift the stories of the economic impact of COVID-19 in our cities, towns, and villages and the need for investment in infrastructure projects to help jumpstart local economic recovery. Use this guide as your template but remember to share real numbers of local impact, describe how your community is leading the way, and communicate that Congress must act quickly in order to help our nation’s communities rebuild and recover with urgency. Investing in people is a good place to start.
About the Authors:
Lindsey Horvath is the Mayor of West Hollywood, California, Chair of the NLC Human Development Federal Advocacy Committee and President of the Women in Municipal Government (WIMG) constituency group. Follow Lindsey on Twitter at @LindseyPHorvath
Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman is the Legislative Director for Human Development at the National League of Cities. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @martinezruckman.