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The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has passed legislation reauthorizing the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for the first time in nearly 20 years. The EDA plays a vital role in growing small businesses across America and its reauthorization is a nonpartisan issue. The Economic Development Reauthorization Act of 2024 aims to drive investment, create jobs, and grow local economies, with a focus on economically distressed communities. Senator Shelley Moore Capito stated that the bipartisan legislation will help the EDA carry out its mission to benefit communities in West Virginia.

Established in 1965 within the U.S. Department of Commerce, the EDA provides grants and technical assistance to economically distressed communities in order to generate new jobs and kickstart industrial and commercial growth through investment programs. This support is available to both rural and urban areas facing high unemployment, low income, and severe economic distress. The EDA is also instrumental in implementing the Investing in America agenda by creating tech hubs in communities to develop and grow innovative industries such as semiconductors, clean energy, and biotechnology. These tech hubs are located across 32 states, Puerto Rico, tribal governments, low-population states, and coal communities.

The Economic Development Reauthorization Act of 2024 seeks to modernize EDA’s core programs by establishing efforts to support workforce development, disaster assistance, broadband deployment, and renewable energy. The bill aims to make it easier for smaller communities to access EDA’s grant opportunities, update the agency’s distress criteria, and strengthen EDA’s role in building local economic development capacity. Senator Tom Carper, the Committee Chairman, believes that the bill will give the agency the tools and resources needed to foster economic growth and build resilient supply chains in communities across the country.

With the bill passing out of the committee, the next step is for the Senate to consider it. Despite a divided Congress, passing legislation to support Main Streets in some of the poorest communities in both red and blue states is essential. The Senate and House should work together to pass the Economic Development Reauthorization Act of 2024 this year to help support economic growth in underserved communities across the country. The EDA’s reauthorization is crucial to ensuring continued support for small businesses and economic development initiatives that benefit communities in need.

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